Mary Grimes’ philosophy of coaching can best be summed up in three words: Win. Encourage. Empower. The coach of Le Moyne’s women’s basketball team, Grimes wants the student-athletes she nurtures to be a formidable presence on the court, consistent in putting points on the board. But more than that, she wants them to be good human beings, invested in serving their communities. Grimes’ overarching priority is to ensure that, whatever challenges her players may face after they leave the warm confines of the Le Moyne campus, they are equipped to meet them because of their education and experiences at College.
Put more succinctly, her goal is for them “to win a national championship – and to win at life.” Grimes was named the sixth head women’s basketball coach in Le Moyne history in June 2021. She’d previously served two separate stints as an assistant coach at the College, as well as at Syracuse University and Xavier University. At Le Moyne in particular she found “a caring family that values everyone as individuals.” Now she is eager to build upon the foundation of success built by her predecessors and to take the program to new levels of excellence. Perhaps more than anything else, she enjoys seeing her players grow as individuals, tackle adversity and find success. That, for Grimes, is the beauty of sports: They create an environment in which things may not be going as a team would have hoped, but it can still overcome those obstacles by working together as one cohesive unit.
The Detroit, Mich., native learned her own important lessons about resiliency and cooperation as a student athlete at Siena College, where she earned a degree in marketing and management and played basketball under Gina Castelli, her predecessor at Le Moyne. Grimes had a terrific career as a Saint, scoring 770 points and starting in 93 out of 119 games. The shooting guard helped lead the squad to three MAAC regular-season championships and one NCAA tournament bid. Yet, looking back, Grimes realizes that she learned as much from her trials as her triumphs. She recalls one conference championship game in which she turned the ball over with fewer than 30 seconds left to play. During their huddle in the game’s next timeout, her teammates patted her on the back, letting her know that it was OK and that they were still in this together. They ultimately won the game – and the championship.
Nearly two decades later, Grimes teaches her players to support each other in the same way. For her success comes down to being able to answer one simple question: Are you better than you were the day before? That applies to all aspects of life, Grimes says. As an athlete, maybe you applied a particularly challenging defensive concept to the next practice or game; as a human being, maybe you just held a door open or offered a smile to someone who needed it. Grimes knows that success is neither static nor one-dimensional. It is many things. In her own life, it means seeing the student-athletes she coaches grow into confident, capable leaders.
“I love practicing and seeing what we practice come to fruition during the game,” she says. “But even more than that I love to see when the player or team sees it come to fruition.”
About Coach Mary Grimes