Former assistant coach moves on, Leaves behind legacy

Friendly faces continue to fade away for the women’s basketball team as they enter the 2013 season. The squad graduated four seniors and will now be without assistant coach Desma Thomas Bateast.

After seven years of serving as an assistant coach with the Panthers, Bateast recently accepted the head coaching position at nearby St. Thomas University. For the Panthers, Thomas Bateast’s departure brings mixed emotions.

“It’s a catch-22 thing, as I am happy for her but at the same time, I am kind of sad,” senior forward Arielle Durant said.

“It’s kind of bittersweet, I’m really happy for her because she is a really great coach and we all knew she would be a Head Coach eventually,” senior point guard Jerica Coley said. “When she got the job,  we were just excited for her because we know she will do great things there, but of course I am sad because she is leaving.”

Thomas Bateast was a standout at the University of Miami as a two-time All Big East third team selection, and is 11th in scoring all-time in the school’s women’s basketball program.

She was also key in the development of Coley. Helping mold her into a two-time all-american, two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and national leading scorer.

During Thomas Bateast’s tenure at FIU and while under the guidance of Head Coach Cindy Russo, the Panthers amassed over 100 wins including 62 conference wins and 10-plus wins in the conference for the last three seasons.

Thomas Bateast was considered an integral piece within all that success, she was regarded as the motivator on those winning teams.

“She is very passionate and very knowledgeable of the game and always knew when push us to be our best,” Coley said.

“She was the motivator and the pusher on the team; especially in practice she would push us to the limit to a level that we ourselves didn’t think we could make,” Durant said. “She would push us to be faster, to be quicker, to be better defenders and to be better scorers and to just be a better overall team.”

Thomas Bateast’s impact was not limited to the lines within the basketball court. She helped players learn  how to conduct themselves while off the court as well.

“Personally, she was like my second mom. She was one of the major reasons I came here because we built a relationship. Just a recruit and a coach,  she took me under her wing,” Durant said. “She told me, ‘You will be a better person individually, you will come in as a young lady but you will come out as a young woman.’”

With Thomas Bateast now at St. Thomas, it will be a tall task to find someone to replace Bateast on the sidelines, Durant said.

“The things I will miss the most about her is her intensity, she was always upbeat, always loud she wasn’t the quiet coach and was on top of you 24/7 and I don’t know who is coming in next but they will have huge shoes to fill,” Durant said.

The fact that Thomas Bateast will be nearby will make it easier for the relationships that Durant and Coley built with the former assistant to be maintained. They both plan to take full advantage that their former assistant coach will be close by to stay in touch for future advice.

“Of course, I will still talk to her on a regular basis and try to get some games with her in the gym, we are still close,” Durant said.

With her departure from FIU now set in stone, Thomas Bateast was appreciative for the opportunity the Panthers provided for her.

“I want to thank Cindy Russo and the entire women’s basketball staff for the great opportunity to grow in this profession at FIU for the last seven seasons,” said Thomas Bateast in a release provided by the athletics department. “I want to thank the team of wonderful young ladies that I’ve been privileged to coach and mentor – I know that they will continue to move towards a brighter future of FIU women’s basketball in Conference USA. That being said, I am extremely excited for the opportunity to lead the St. Thomas University women’s basketball program, and to take the next step in my coaching career.”

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