After 23 seasons as a college head coach, Melanie Balcomb joined the South Carolina staff after an invitation from head coach Dawn Staley to accept a role that could change the landscape of coaching the game. In July 2016, Balcomb traded the black and gold of Vanderbilt for the Gamecocks' garnet and black as the director of coaching offensive analytics, helping South Carolina to the 2017 NCAA National Championship, which capped the program's fourth-straight SEC regular-season title and third-consecutive SEC Tournament crown.
Balcomb spent 21 of her 23 seasons at the NCAA Division I level, leading Vanderbilt (14 seasons) and Xavier (7 seasons) to winning seasons behind offensive efficiency that often ranked among the best in the nation. She led her teams to 15 NCAA Tournament appearances in those 21 seasons, including four NCAA Sweet 16s and the 2001 NCAA Elite Eight. Balcomb guided five teams to conference tournament titles, including her 2001 Xavier squad that also claimed the Atlantic 10 regular-season title, and nine of her players have gone on to play in the WNBA. Also active outside of the NCAA, she recently completed a four-year stint on the USA Basketball Women's Junior National Team Committee and, in 2016-17, was named the chair of the inaugural WBCA Diversity Committee.
In her lone season in Columbia, Balcomb's offensive input showed in the Gamecocks' increased scoring average, which rose from 73.6 in 2015-16 to 76.3 in 2016-17. It was the highest for the program since the 1993-94 squad averaged 79.4 points. Three Gamecocks shot at least 51.0 percent from the field, including senior center Alaina Coates, who ranked fourth in the nation at 67.0 percent (140-of-209).
Balcomb firmly established herself in the coaching industry in her 14 seasons at Vanderbilt, where she became the Commodores' all-time winningest head coach. Her teams played in 12 straight NCAA Tournaments (2003-14), including four Sweet 16s, and collected three SEC Tournament titles. After playing for her, seven Commodores were drafted into the WNBA. Her Vanderbilt teams solidified her reputation as an offensive strategist, finishing in the top 50 nationally in field goal percentage every season, including four teams that finished among the top four. Her 2002-03 team led the nation with a .513 field goal percentage, and the 2014-15 team ranked 10th at .454. Under Balcomb's tutelage, the Commodores were an elite 3-point shooting team as well with her 2006-07 team leading the nation with a .437 percentage from beyond the arc and the 2013-14 squad ranking third in the nation with a .400 mark.
She first made a name for herself on the national stage with a steady building of the program at Xavier, where her up-tempo offense dominated the Atlantic 10 en route to becoming a national contender. She guided the Musketeers to three NCAA Tournaments, highlighted by the 2001 trip to the NCAA Elite Eight that included a win over perennial power Tennessee. While amassing two A-10 Tournament championships and the 2001 regular-season title, the Musketeers dominated the NCAA's annual field goal percentage lists, ranking among the top three in the nation three times and leading the nation in 3-point accuracy in 1998-99.
Balcomb's first head coaching assignment came at Ashland University, where she guided the Eagles for two seasons before moving into the NCAA Division I ranks with Xavier. She spent the first eight years of her coaching career as an assistant coach first at Niagara University (1985-86 through 1988-89), then Ohio University (1989-90 season) and finally three seasons at Providence (1990-91 through 1992-93).
A standout as a player at Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey), Balcomb was inducted into her alma mater's department of athletics Hall of Fame on June 5, 2015. She tallied 1,099 points in her career (1982-85) and ranks among the school's all-time leaders in points and assists. She was also inducted into the Greater Cincinnati Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and is a member of the Hightstown High School Hall of Fame (Class of 1996).
A native of Cranbury, N.J., Balcomb graduated from Trenton State with a bachelor's degree in health and physical education in 1984 and a master's degree in education specializing in sports administration and athletic management in 1985. She and Amy have two children, Quincy and Aleya.
The Balcomb Capsule
Coaching ExperienceSouth Carolina, director of coaching offensive analytics, 2016-present Vanderbilt, head coach, 2003-16
• 310-149 (675.) -- 14 seasons
• All-time winningest coach in program history
• Three SEC Tournament championships, 2004, 2007, 2009
• Four NCAA Sweet 16 appearances, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 Xavier, head coach, 1996-2002
• 135-78 (.634) -- 7 seasons
• Three NCAA appearances, including 2001 Elite 8
• Atlantic 10 regular-season championship, 2001
• Two A-10 Tournament championships, 2000, 2001
• A-10 Coach of the Year, 2001
• Naismith National Coach of the Year finalist, 2001 Ashland University, head coach, 1994-95
• 28-26 (.519) -- 2 seasons Providence College, assistant coach, 1991-93 Ohio University, assistant coach, 1990 Niagara University, assistant coach, 1986-89
Trenton State (now The College of New Jersey), 1982-85
Georgia Southern, 1980
Hightstown High School, 1977-80
WBCA Diversity Committee, Chair, 2016-present
USA Basketball Women's Junior National Team Committee, 2013-16
The College of New Jersey Department of Athletics Hall of Fame, Class of 2015
Greater Cincinnati Basketball Hall of Fame, Class of 2001
Hightstown High School Hall of Fame, Class of 1996
Bachelor of science, Trenton State, 1984
Master of education, Trenton State, 1985