Jeff Carr, BCC Athletic Director
July 23, 2012 - Brevard Community College professor Dr. Marsha Lake has a personal reason to watch the Summer Olympic Games.
Lake's daughter Shea Ralph, a former women's basketball star at the University of Connecticut, is an assistant coach for the U.S. Women's National Team that is favored to win the gold medal.
Ralph, a former "Sports Illustrated" Women's Basketball Player of the Year and Honda Award winner for the nation's top female collegiate player, scouts the U.S. opponents for Geno Auriemma, the Olympic head coach.
At UConn, where Ralph has been one of Auriemma's assistants since 2008, she is primarily in charge of guards.
A former All-American and the Most Valuable Player of the 2000 NCAA Women's Final Four for UConn, Ralph followed the path blazed by her mother. As Marsha Mann, Dr. Lake played in the World University Games in 1973 and was the University of North Carolina's first women's basketball All-American in 1975. Her uniform number 44 was retired and hung from the rafters at UNC's Carmichael Auditorium. She also is a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference's 50th anniversary team announced in 2003.
Dr. Lake, who lives in Cocoa Beach with her husband Roy, teaches math at BCC's Titusville campus. She and her husband are both self-professed huge sports fans, with their daughter's games — both as a player and a coach — naturally taking precedence.
"It has been wonderful to watch Shea play since I could view it as both a mom and a former player," Dr. Lake said. "I could really appreciate her talent more having played the sport myself and also understand and follow the strategy of the game."
That being said, being a spectator is not easy.
"I have finally figured out that nothing I can do sitting in front of a TV in Florida will change the outcome of one of her games," Dr. Lake said "Much less stress for me that way."
Dr. Lake gets to spend some time with her daughter during the off-season and on occasional UConn road trips when they try to stay in the same hotel. Otherwise it is catch-as-catch-can considering Ralph's demanding schedule.
"She always comes down for the maybe 48 hours off she has at Christmas," Dr. Lake said. "She also makes time for a mother-daughter week or so in May, once things have settled down with her and once I am through with spring semester. If we can fit in one more trip sometime, we try."
And basketball, not surprisingly, does find its way into the conversation.
"We talk shop a lot when we are together, but she really doesn't need my input anymore," Dr. Lake said. "She is way above me."
Dr. Lake doesn't play basketball anymore, but remains active, running four to five miles a day, three times a week and working with weights. Once an athlete, always an athlete and she recognizes that today's women play a much different game now than Lake played in her day.
"If you saw film of me playing, you would laugh at how much the game has changed," she said. "Any small touch was considered a foul and look at the inside play today. It was a lot slower (then) and not nearly as athletic.
"There was neither a three-point line nor a shot clock. I think that is why I did so well. I grew up playing the game with boys and had the stamina, athleticism, etc. that most girls did not have back then.
"It is wonderful to watch how much the game has progressed and feel like I had a part in that. I was at UNC when Title IX was enacted and was called into the Athletic Director's office more than once for being too vocal about the inequities."
One of Dr. Lake's peers in her playing days was Pat Summitt, who became the winningest collegiate basketball coach — men's or women's — in the game's history, with 1,098 victories in 1,306 games as the University of Tennessee's head women's basketball coach.
Dr. Lake played with Summitt (then known as Pat Head) on the University Games team, an organization comprised of America's top collegiate players. Dr. Lake has deep, personal memories and feelings for Summitt, who retired at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season at Tennessee due to early onset Alzheimer's Disease.
"I have some fabulous memories of Pat," Dr. Lake said. "I met her at tryouts for the World University Games in Iowa in 1972. We both made the team and won the silver medal in Moscow in 1973. She played the game exactly the same way she coached — total aggression and in-your-face.
"When I saw that Shea was going to be a special player at about age 9, I called Pat and asked her to take a look. She invited me to bring Shea to the UT basketball camp and to help coach while I was there. This went on for several years and Pat recruited Shea hard. I really thought that is where she would go until she visited UConn. She fell in love with the whole package and that was that. I have been crushed about Pat's situation and continue to follow it closely and wish her the absolute best. She is a great person."