Samantha Doucette knew she would never make the WNBA — she was too short — but her basketball IQ allowed her to play four years at Vanguard University, an NAIA Division 1 program.
After an extensive job search, Doucette is set to take the helm as head coach of the Orange Coast College women’s basketball team, succeeding Sabrina White who led the Pirates for one season.
Coming off last year’s season that left the Pirates with only two wins, the program aims for Doucette to revitalize a culture that saw the team make 20 playoff appearances in 22 seasons between 1989-2011 under Hall of Fame coach Mike Thornton.
“I’m really excited because Sammy [Doucette] is a great fit for not just our department, but for the entire Orange Empire Conference,” Athletic Director Jason Kehler said.
Doucette brings an interesting aspect into the Basil H. Peterson Gym, being only 25 years old and heading a college program.
“This is my proudest moment, being 25 years old, and a coach at the junior college level,” Doucette said.
For the past three years she has worked alongside Los Angeles Laker legend Kobe Bryant, coaching and supervising for the Mamba Youth Sports in Newport Beach. Bryant, she said, was by her side every single day.
As a player, she was coached and mentored under Vanguard’s Hall of Fame coach Russ David.
Entering a struggling program is a familiar scenario for Doucette as she was tasked with the job of rebuilding the Costa Mesa High School girls’ basketball team, which in its season before her arrival had only six players.
OCC’s women’s basketball team had 10 women on its roster last season.
Doucette explained that at Costa Mesa High School, she recruited from the local middle school, where the program suddenly found itself a 24-player squad that finished 16-13 and won the Orange Coast League.
The team also reached the CIF Southern Section Division 5AA quarterfinals.
The program didn’t get out to an immediate success, struggling out of the gate with a 1-9 record, the team thrived when it mattered most.
Kehler said he is excited by the prospects Doucette will bring to OCC.
“Before, she just had the city to recruit, now she has all of California,” Kehler said. “Even with the short timeline, she can really turn some heads this season.”
Doucette said she began coaching local teams in the eighth grade with local teams and realized it was what she wanted to do full time.
The Pirates are hopeful that this will be the change that clicks and opens a new chapter of the Orange Coast College women’s basketball team’s legacy.
Although the return of a competitive program is at the top of the list of goals, it isn’t something the Pirate women expect to see overnight.
“My goal is not to come out here and be the number one team my first year. If that happens awesome, but my goal is to just build,” Doucette said.
—Chloe Gould contributed to this report.