SE: Patterson's Staff a 'K-State Family'

Deb Patterson

Jan. 26, 2012

By Mark Janssen

Wednesday was a day designated for the likes of Kelly Moylan, Shalee Lehning, Danielle Zanotti, Marlies Gipson and Shalin Spani ... and so many more.

National Girls and Women in Sports Day was celebrated at Bramlage Coliseum where Kansas State's women's basketball team entertained Iowa State.
Aside 16-year head coach Deb Patterson and 16-year associate head coach Kamie Ethridge were members of the Wildcat coaching staff: Moylan, Lehning, Zanotti, Gipson and Spani, who are all serving their alma mater of Kansas State University.
Of her coaching staff, Patterson said, "K-State is such a tight knit family. We're all for one and one for all. That's just the way Kansas State is.

Saying that the K-State program is one of character and with an over-achieving mentality, Patterson said, "These are home-grown kids with great values. They attended our school and loved their experiences. K-State is their passion; working hard is their passion; overcoming obstacles and odds is their passion."
Moylan, a product of Emmett and high school graduate of St. Mary's in eastern Kansas, graduated in 1994 in physical education; Lehning, a native of Sublette in western Kansas, graduated in 2009 in journalism; Gipson, a native of McPherson in central Kansas, graduated in 2009 in elementary education; Zanotti, a native of Mustang, Okla., graduated in 2009 in psychology; and, Spani, a native of Kansas City, graduated in 2011 in public relations.
Moylan was a part of one 20-game season as a player, while the trio of Lehning, Zanotti and Gipson combined for 90 wins, which included a Big 12 Championship earned in 2008 when Spani was a freshman.
"This is a group that has the mentality of Kansas State. They don't have to drive Hummers. If a 10-year-old jalopy gets them where they need to be, that's fine," said Patterson. "They believe in the values of Kansas State and they love the people of Kansas State. They get who K-State is ... who we are and what we are." 
A six-year member of the K-State staff, Moylan came from a Wildcat family where "... at a very young age I dreamed of playing for K-State. You have a family atmosphere here and can feel the passion of the players and coaches. I can't say enough of what it's meant to me to be surrounded by such great people."
Patterson calls Moylan "... the consummate K-Stater."
A Kansas Sports Magazine Player of the Year in 1989, Moylan was recruited to K-State by Matilda Mossman and later played for Gaye Griffin and Susan Yow. With the Wildcats she became one of the first pure 3-point shooters as her 38 percent accuracy still ranks sixth in school history and her number of treys made ranks 10th.
Moylan started her coaching career at Northern Iowa before returning to Kansas as a middle school and high school coach at Junction City before returning to K-State.
"It's such an honor to represent K-State in a different capacity," said Moylan, who first met Patterson through working K-State camps. "It's a true blessing to be surrounded by such influences as Coach P, Coach E, and the other staff members."
Lehning is the total package any head coach would want as an assistant.

Look up and one finds her No. 5 jersey swaying in the Bramlage Coliseum rafters; look back and one sees that she earned All-American honors, was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 honoree and three times was decorated with Big 12 academic honors; and look to the present and you see a three-year veteran with the WNBA's Atlanta Dream.
Since leaving K-State, Patterson said, "Shalee has become a national presence because of being a WNBA player. The population of people who know who she is has grown immensely. Beyond being kind, energized and understanding our system inside and out, she now has that WNBA perspective. She's lived it and can share it with our players today."
Joining Patterson's staff three years ago was "... the ultimate honor. It's such a blessing to be part of a program that is so close to your heart. You come back with the goal of making the same dreams come true for incoming players as they did for you."
Lehning says she remembers coming to K-State football games as a little girl, and then as a freshman in high school being in Bramlage Coliseum to watch the likes of Ohlde, Wecker and Koehn win game after game.
"I was with my fiend Whitney and there were 9,000 fans there," reflected Lehning. "I remember saying, `I want to play here someday'."
Play Lehning did, finishing her K-State career first in school history in assists, minutes played and fourth in all-time rebounds. She was the first player in Big 12 history to record 1,000 points, 900 rebounds and 800 assists.
"When you play with someone on a team there is a bond formed that I'm not sure you can realize outside of sports," said Lehning. "Now to be young professionals together has just been awesome. We went to battle together, we stood for Kansas State together, and we continue to have the same passion about the program as members of the staff."
Zanotti came to a K-State basketball camp as a junior in high school and "... fell in love with the campus." After watching a video highlight on camp night, she reflects, "I went back to the dorm and called my mom and said this is exactly where I want to play. It was such a family atmosphere and the coaching staff was just amazing."
Playing from 2005-06 to 2008-09, she says, "I knew I would develop as a basketball player, but I didn't understand at the time how these would be years I would develop so much as a young woman."
While missing being a part of the Xs and Os on the floor, Zanotti said that as staff members there continues to be "... the feeling of being a part of a group goal and mission as one."
With the Wildcats, she played in 130 games, third in KSU history, which includes participating in two NCAA tournaments and a pair of WNIT's. She also won Academic All-Big 12 honors three years and eight Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll citations.
Patterson says, "Danielle and Marlies have a strong understanding of our style and what our program is about in terms of competitiveness, but they are East and West in personality. Dani has always been vocal and a strong leader."
A strong leader in a place she now calls "... my home the last seven years. I received four years of education and now am trying to give back."

In comparing Gipson to Zanotti, Patterson says, "Marlies is just as strong-minded, but more quiet in her response. They provided a good balance on the floor, and an equally good balance today on our staff."
Gipson arrived at K-State in a form of a package deal in that she always wanted to team with AAU teammates Kari Kincaid and Ashley Sweat.
"I committed in my junior year," said Gipson. "I looked at other places, but I knew K-State was the right fit."
Gipson calls being on the K-State staff a "blessing," and calls her position "a job easy to wake up to when you're around familiar faces and people you admire."
A three-time Academic All-Big 12 recipient and eight-time Commissioner's Honor Roll honoree, on the court Gipson set school records in blocked shots, was fifth in rebounds and 13th in career points.
In the same recruiting class of Zanotti and Lehning, the trio combined to win 90 games and a Big 12 title in 2008.
But more than those numbers, Gipson cherishes the "learning about myself through life messages" from Patterson and Ethridge for her growing as an individual.
"It's all about family," Spani said of K-State. "That's why I came as a player, and why I'm thrilled to stay. It literally is my second family. It's hard to explain the respect that I have for these people."
Spani said that K-State was the first school to send her a recruiting letter and that the Wildcats were always her school of choice.
A series of knee surgeries limited her playing time as a Wildcat, but in no way does she blame K-State: "I would never put K-State and bad taste in the same sentence about anything. I came here with a solid foundation in life, but through Coach P and Coach E, it just extended that foundation of what my parents had instilled in me."
Like with the others, Patterson said, "Shalin is the consummate K-Stater in that it's been her life," said Patterson in reference to being the daughter of former All-Big 8 linebacker Gary Spani. "She had the misfortune of having her career plagued by injuries, but she has such great character and love for the program."

And speaking for the collection of former Wildcats currently making up the K-State staff, Spani said, "This is my way of giving back to a family that I love."