The 2011 NCAA D-II Women’s Basketball National Coach of the Year will hang up the whistle and return to Florida to be closer to his family as he becomes the Director of Athletics and School Advancement at Pathways Private School in Orlando.
In a normal offseason for Cal Maritime Head Women’s Basketball Coach Dennis Cox, he would visit his parents in Florida and get to travel to see his adult children, which includes a trip to Canada. As travel restrictions due to the pandemic were extended, Cox became unsure of when he would see his family again. It was that uncertainty that led him to consider the offer he had at Pathways.
Cox felt he had figured out the right recruiting mix and strategies this offseason for Women’s Basketball at Cal Maritime, as he was very excited about his four returners and eight incoming recruits. But Cox made the tough decision to hand off his third and largest Keelhaulers recruiting class to another coach due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have such mixed emotions as I leave Cal Maritime because I am sad to leave the student-athletes and my colleagues at a time when I see so many exciting changes taking place,” Cox said. “But I am also thrilled for a new opportunity to stretch and grow. My wife Ruth and I are excited to move back to Florida, where I grew up. Amid the current crisis, we have come to appreciate even more the importance of being close to family.”
Over the last three years at Cal Maritime, Cox expanded beyond just his coaching duties and served as Sports Coordinator, which included administrative duties associated with Community Engagement and Academic Success for student-athletes. It was those duties at Cal Maritime that prepared him for the jump to an administrative role, something the 62-year-old Cox wanted to pursue when his coaching career ended.
“I would like to thank President Cropper and former Athletic Director, Marv Christopher, for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the Keelhauler family at Cal Maritime,” Cox said. “I have enjoyed working with the cadets in the Women’s Basketball program, and I have come to love the unique campus culture. It felt like I was part of a family at Cal Maritime, and I would like to thank the many people that made it feel that way. I would especially like to express my deepest gratitude to assistant coach, Ruby Grover, for her tremendous support and assistance.”
Cox’s role outside of coaching led to him serving as a liaison for Athletics and the Academic Support Team on campus, a facilitator for the Edwards Leadership Development Program, the campus Unity Council, the committee to hire new the Equal Opportunity Program Director at Cal Maritime, and he even learned how to knit in the Makers Space and knitted a dishcloth for a charity in Vallejo.
The opportunity at Pathways Private School allows Cox to grow a young program after amassing almost 600 wins in 30 years as a collegiate Head Women’s Basketball Coach after he began his career as a high school science teacher and girls basketball coach.
After a successful run at Lake Highland Prep, Cox became the first full-time Head Women’s Basketball Coach at Valencia College in 1989, where he compiled a 144-97 record over eight seasons, including four seasons with 20 or more wins and three state tournament appearances.
Cox then guided the inaugural Women’s Basketball program at Daytona State College, and in six years built Daytona State into a national power compiling a 147-41 record. He received the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Region IX Coach of the Year honor in 2003, was the Mid-Florida Conference Coach of the Year three times, and inducted into the Florida College System Activities Association Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013 for his coaching success at Valencia and Daytona State.
Cox then took over the helm of the Women’s Basketball program at Clayton State University prior to the 2004-05 season, where he made an immediate impact. In ten seasons, Clayton State became one of the elite programs in NCAA Division II with an overall record of 267-57, garnering seven Peach Belt Conference regular-season championships, four Peach Belt Conference Tournament championships, and ten straight trips to the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
Cox led the Lakers to the NCAA Division II “Final Four” in 2007 and the “Elite Eight” in 2009 and 2013, along with a “Sweet 16” appearance in 2008. The culmination of that success, however, was in the 2010-11 season when he paced Clayton State to its first-ever NCAA Division II National Championship that saw the Lakers dominate throughout the tournament, winning six games by an average of more than 21 points.
Along with this success came numerous postseason honors. He was selected Peach Belt Conference Coach of the Year four times, the John “Whack” Hyder” State of Georgia Women’s College Coach of Year three times, NCAA Division II Southeast Region Coach of the Year, and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Division II National Coach of the Year. In 2016, the Peach Belt Conference celebrated its 25th anniversary, and Cox was one of 25 members elected to the inaugural Hall of Fame class.
After Clayton State, Cox spent three years as the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at San Francisco State University before coming to Cal Maritime.
A native of Orlando, Cox prepped at William R. Boone High School, where he competed in Cross Country, Basketball, and Baseball, and is a member of the Boone High School Athletics Hall of Fame. He competed in Intercollegiate Basketball at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, where he majored in Biology and earned his Master’s Degree in Physical Education from the University of Central Florida. He and his wife Ruth reside in the metro Orlando area.
The Cal Maritime Athletic Department will conduct a nationwide search for Cox’s replacement, though Women’s Basketball will not play any games until at least January of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and three Cal Maritime majors taking only virtual courses in the fall of 2020.
Photo Courtesy Cal Maritime AthleticsCal Pac NAIA