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ATHENS, Texas — Elena Lovato is returning to Trinity Valley Community College.
Lovato, who spent this past season as an assistant coach at Nebraska-Omaha, has been named head women’s basketball coach for the Lady Cardinals basketball team.
She replaces co-head coaches Michael and Kenya Landers, who resigned just days after leading the Lady Cardinals to their sixth national championship and third undefeated season, to join the coaching staff at the University of Mississippi.
On Monday, the Trinity Valley board of regents accepted the Landers’ resignations and approved the hiring of Lovato.
Lovato is no stranger to the Lady Cardinal basketball program. She began the 2009-10 season as an assistant coach at TVCC and served as interim head coach the final 11 games of the season.
She took over after head coach Bill Damuth was suspended after he followed referees off court at the end of a loss to Blinn College in Brenham and was arrested.
She led the Lady Cardinals to a 9-2 record during that time, which included conference and regional championships and a sixth-place finish at the national tournament.
“I am so excited,” Lovato said. “I feel like I’m coming home — I am coming home. … I am anxious to get on campus and meet with the players and see friends and fans again.”
At season’s end, Trinity Valley brought back former head coach Michael Landers and his wife, who is a former star player for the Lady Cardinals, and Lovato became the head coach at Grayson County Community College. She led Grayson to the Region V championship, a 32-4 record and fifth-place finish at the national tournament.
Two of the Grayson losses were to the Lady Cardinals, including a 79-72 decision in the national quarterfinals.
Lovato was named the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Junior College Coach of the Year, the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year and the Region V Coach of the Year following Grayson County’s stellar season.
Grayson County ended its men’s and women’s basketball program during the off-season a year ago, and Lovato went to Nebraska-Omaha.
Before arriving at Trinity Valley for her first tenure, she was an assistant at the University of Houston on Joe Curl’s staff in 2008-09. Prior to Houston, Lovato spent one season as a graduate assistant at Pittsburg State, in Pittsburg, Kan.
In addition to her experience at the collegiate level, Lovato also has coached at the high school level, serving as the head junior varsity and assistant varsity coach at Buffalo High School in Buffalo, Mo. While coaching at BHS, she also spent one year as a physical education teacher at Buffalo Prairie Middle School, earning 2007 Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year honors.
She also has coached and taught at Menaul High School in her hometown of Albuquerque, N.M., where she served as interim head women’s basketball coach as well as assistant boys’ coach. Lovato also has an experience in sales, after working from December 2003 to March 2006 in private business.
As a player, Lovato started her collegiate career at West Texas A&M where she played for two seasons (1997-99) before transferring to Missouri Southern State to play her final two seasons, earning team captain and MIAA Newcomer of the Year honors in 1999-2000.
Following her collegiate career, she played in the Puerto Rican Women’s Pro Basketball League for two years.
In 2001, she earned First-Team All-League honors, averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds per game. In 2002, she averaged 18 points and eight rebounds per game. In 2002, she also played for the Chicago Blaze of the National Women’s Basketball League (NWBL).
Lovato received her bachelor’s degree in university studies from Missouri Southern State in May 2005 and graduated from Pitt State with her master’s degree in physical education in May 2008.
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