HEAD COACH SHARON BALDWIN
Head Coach Sharon Baldwin embarks on her seventh season at Georgia State after signing a new three-year contract in 2015-16.
In 2015-16, the Panthers had the youngest team in the Sun Belt and the development process was underway as four freshmen played more than 2,100 minutes, while five transfers played their first season at GSU and two new assistant coaches joined the staff. Madison Newby was voted Sun Belt Freshman of the Year after leading the league in assists and ranking top 50 in the NCAA. Makeba Ponder led the Sun Belt in 3-point baskets per game for a second straight year. As a result of all the change, a 10-19 record kept GSU out of the tournament. Now, 11 players return from this team with experience and cohesiveness.
In 2014-15, GSU finished 13-17 overall and eighth in the 11-team Sun Belt (8-12) to earn a tournament seed for a second-straight season. Makeba Ponder was named a Mid-Major All-American (third team). Ponder tied the school record with 69 3-point baskets and the team had the second-most in school history with 164 made. The team had the first 100-point scoring game since 2000.
In 2013-14, the Panthers finished fifth in the 10-team league, defeating seven of the teams. GSU defeated the first-place team on the road, while also claming a win over the third and fourth-place teams ahead of them.
The Panthers had a five-game league win streak from Jan. 14-29. GSU’s inaugural Sun Belt game was a win on New Year’s Day over Troy. The season started with the first WNIT preseason tournament appearance in school history, dropping all three to future 20-win teams.
Kendra Long earned third-team All-Sun Belt honors in 2013-14 and was twice the league player-of-the-week winner. She set the school record for 3-point baskets.
In 2012-13, Baldwin's 13-16 season included a non-conference mark of 8-3 and an overall home record of 10-7. The tough schedule included losses to 12 winning teams, seven in the top 100 RPI. In state, GSU defeated Kennesaw State by 21 points and Georgia Southern by 25 points.
Cody Paulk was named to the CAA All-Defensive Team and shattered school blocked shots records, while also earning all-academic recognition. Kayla Nolan was a CAA Player of the Week and Ashlee Cole a CAA Rookie of the Week.
In a challenging 2011-12 season, Baldwin worked with five freshmen and finished with 12 players starting a game and 10 players leading the team in scoring in a game as she worked all the newcomers into the program. The team went 6-5 in the non-conference portion of the schedule and fought in a league that ranked seventh among 31 Division I conferences.
Two players earned CAA Rookie-of-the-Week honors in 2011-12 and Cody Paulk was a CoSIDA Academic All-District and All-CAA academic honoree.
In 2010-11, her first season at GSU, the Panthers continued to improve as the season went along, showcased by a win in the CAA Championship vs. a team that had beaten GSU by 24 points earlier in the year.
GSU defeated two CAA teams which had been ranked in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll.
In 2010-11, Baldwin- had an All-CAA player (Chan Harris), an All-CAA rookie (Kendra Long) and the CAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year (Cody Paulk).
Baldwin picked up her 200th career win as a head coach on Dec. 29, 2010, vs. Mississippi Valley State (91-65) and guided GSU to the 500th all-time win in school history on Jan. 9, 2011, in a win over Hofstra (84-70).
In eight years, she turned around the East Carolina women’s basketball program, winning 126 games, while earning postseason bids to the NCAA and WNIT tournaments. The Lady Pirates won the C-USA Tournament in 2007.
Her return to Atlanta was a homecoming as she played her prep ball in Smyrna and her college ball at both Kennesaw State and Georgia. She was an assistant coach at Georgia and a head coach at Life in Marietta to start her career.
In 2009-10, her 23-11 ECU team was No. 37 in the NCAA in scoring, while ranking No. 12 in 3-point field goal percentage, No. 14 in overall field goal percentage, No. 19 in assists and No. 42 in rebound margin among the 345 Divison I colleges and universities.
Her tenure at ECU followed one season at Mercer. She was the Atlantic Sun Conference Coach of the Year in her only season in Macon.
She first gained notice as NAIA National Coach of the Year at Life. She began that program with a final No. 7 ranking in its first year in 2010 and then produced a team ranked No.1 in the national polls in her second season (2001).
In her first 12 years as a head coach before coming to GSU, Baldwin had a 207-161 overall record. Her 126 wins at ECU are a school record.
Her assistant coaching career was highlighted by being named the Naismith National Assistant Coach of the Year (1996) while she was in her sixth year at Georgia under head coach Andy Landers.
With her recruiting help, the Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA championship game in 1996 and ended with a final No. 2 ranking. UGA also earned a No. 4 ranking in 1995 and a No. 6 ranking in 1997. Georgia’s 1993 recruiting class was ranked No. 1 in the country and the 1997 class was No. 2. Her recruits included All-Americans Rachel Powell, Kedra Holland-Corn, as well as the WNBA-bound twins Coco and Kelly Miller (both went on to play with the Atlanta Dream).
As a collegiate player, Baldwin played her first two seasons near her home at Kennesaw State, where she was as an all-conference player with 831 points in two years.
As a student, she transferred to Georgia for her final two seasons under coach Landers and was a starting guard and team captain her senior campaign. The Bulldogs finished No. 7, with five wins over top 20 teams, including a nationally televised win over No. 3 Tennessee. Baldwin led the team in free throw percentage (79%). As a junior, her team was 23-7 and No. 10 in the final AP poll.
Baldwin arrived at East Carolina in 2002 with solid credentials and the reputation of a program-builder. When she arrived at ECU, they were coming off a 6-21 season in 2001-02. In her eight years with the Lady Pirate program, she exceeded expectations. Given the task of resurrecting a program that had 18 winning seasons in its first 23 years from 1969-1992, she quickly left her mark and molded ECU into a championship contender.
What Baldwin did after accepting the ECU position was clear not only in the community, but also around the country. The squad’s RPI rating improved nearly 150 spots and attendance quadrupled. In 2009-10, her team finished No. 83 among the 345 Division I colleges in the RPI ranking system used by the NCAA.
In 2008-09, East Carolina led Conference USA in attendance, drawing an average of 1,602 fans per contest and upped that with 1,935 in 2009-10.
Baldwin’s building process really showed in 2007 as East Carolina accomplished another first – a Conference USA Tournament title.
For the first time since 1982, the Lady Pirates were represented in the NCAA Tournament field of 64. After sending home SMU in the C-USA quarterfinals and edging UAB in the semifinals, the Lady Pirates beat Rice to win the championship game.
MERCER AND LIFE HEAD COACH
Prior to her appointment at East Carolina, Baldwin served one season as head coach at Mercer in Macon, Ga. She took over a program that won only six games a season prior and led the Bears to a 16-13 record and berth in the semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Tournament. The 10-game improvement represented one of the biggest turnarounds in Division I that season.
Baldwin’s aforementioned penchant for being a program-maker rang true in the three years she spent at Life University. She literally built the program from the ground up as the NAIA-affiliated university did not sponsor women’s basketball until her arrival.
In two seasons of competition, the Lady Eagles compiled a stellar record of 53-14. In the program’s first season (1999-2000), Baldwin led Life to a 22-11 mark as the Lady Eagles advanced to the NAIA Sweet Sixteen.
In year two, Life’s Lady Eagles put together a remarkable 31-3 record, including a 19-game winning streak, and advanced to the Elite Eight of the national tournament. Life ended the season as the No. 1 team in the final NAIA national poll.
Baldwin added more hardware to her resume that season as she was named the WBCA NAIA National Coach of the Year and earned her second-straight Naismith Georgia NAIA Division III Coach-of-the-Year honor.
Baldwin enjoyed a successful playing career at both the high school and collegiate levels. At Wills High School (merged with Campbell High School) in Smyrna, Ga., she averaged 21 points per contest as a senior and was named the 1985 Georgia Class 4A State Player of the Year. The top male player at Wills when she was there was Brian Oliver, who went on to Georgia Tech to play on its 1990 Final Four team.
In Smyrna, Baldwin was in classes at Griffin Middle School with actress Julia Roberts. Out of high school, Baldwin signed with Kennesaw State and played two seasons before transferring to Georgia.
At Kennesaw, she was an all-district and all-conference selection, averaging 18 points per game as a freshman before upping that mark to 20 as a sophomore.
Baldwin earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Georgia in 1991 and completed her master’s of education in 1997, also at Georgia.
She and her husband, Matt, have two children: Luke (12, Feb. 4, 2004) and Samantha (10, Oct. 28, 2005) and reside in Marietta, Ga.