By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

McNary’s new girls basketball coach Liz Doran’s toughest question at an introductory meeting last week didn’t come from the press but from one of her future players—“Are there any teams in our league that you don’t like?”

“No, I’m not going there,” replied Doran after the room erupted in laughter.

Doran graduated from Crescent Valley High School in 2005 back when the Lady Raiders and McNary played in the same conference.

“We lost a heartbreaker here my senior year that I still remember,” she said.

Doran was a McDonald’s All-American nominee as a senior at Crescent Valley, averaging 19.4 points per game and represented her graduating class as their valedictorian.

Doran signed with Santa Clara University after high school, starting 61 games and leading the team in 3-pointers her junior and senior seasons. In the classroom, she graduated summa cum laude with a 3.95 GPA in bioengineering.

After serving as an assistant girls basketball coach at Moscow High School in Idaho from 2009-2010, Doran returned to her alma mater to become an assistant at Crescent Valley.

After two seasons, Doran was set to become head coach of the girls program but instead jumped at the opportunity to join the staff at Texas A&M International University, a Division-II program in Laredo.

“At the time it was just one of those things that I couldn’t turn down,” Doran said. “It was hard to leave because I was really excited to coach the high school team but it was an opportunity where I thought I could really build my resume and learn more about basketball.”

Doran said she enjoyed coaching in college but got the itch to be a teacher and a coach, so after four years she returned to Corvallis and is currently getting her masters of science and education at Oregon State.

“I think the high school level is meant for me,” Doran said. “I love building basketball skills and basketball smarts but I also love the life lessons that you can learn through basketball and building character, work ethic that will help you in every area.”

At McNary, Doran is replacing Derick Handley, who stepped down at the end of the season.

Under Handley, the Lady Celts won a school record 23 games and finished fourth in the state in 2016. After sending three players to Division-II programs, McNary then went 13-11 last year and lost to Jesuit in the first round of the playoffs.

The Lady Celts will graduate four seniors including leading scorer, Sydney Hunter, who has signed with the University of San Diego.

“It was a tough decision but the demands of being a husband, father of a 3-year old, teacher and coach were getting more and more difficult to balance,” Handley said. “I was realizing that moving forward it would be nearly impossible to give 100 percent to everything, and while I love coaching it was the obvious option.”

Handley will remain at McNary, taking on the responsibilities of the school’s activities director.

“I love the program at McNary and wish the student athletes and their families nothing but the best moving forward,” Handley said. “They are going to be in great hands with the next coach and will continue their success at the high levels our community has come to expect.”

McNary’s new athletic director Scott Gragg hired Doran from a pool of 12 applicants.

“There was one candidate that was far and above the others that were really good candidates as well,” Gragg said. “Coach Doran, we’re lucky that she has chosen to lead the Celtics.”

Doran came highly recommended.

“This is year 40 for me at Crescent Valley, Elizabeth might be one of the best I’ve seen in the classroom and as a coach,” Crescent Valley Athletic Director Craig Ellingson wrote. “She is going to be dynamite. She is a 10 out of 10. I wish I could keep her.”

Doran said she knew McNary was the right fit after meeting with Gragg and Principal Erik Jespersen.

“I’m super excited,” she said. “I feel like it was meant to be. I met Erik and Scott and their vision of where they want McNary to be as a school and athletics, too, I hit it off right away with them.”

Doran delivered a motto of “We Pursue Excellence,” to her new team, which extends to every area of life, on and off the court.

“I want to build a program that has strong character and that’s a classy program, and that starts with respecting each other, respecting the administration, respecting the teachers, respecting referees,” said Doran, who added that McNary will “compete hard, smart and together.”

Doran, who also participated in volleyball, track and golf in high school, recommended her girls play other sports.

“I want you to play basketball, even if another sport is your passion,” Doran said. “I think there is a lot of things you can learn by playing another sport. If you want to play volleyball or softball or run track in college, I will help you develop the work ethic and the mentality needed to succeed. It’s the same across every sport. The actual skills are different but the same mindset is needed to be successful and it transfers to other aspects of life, too. That’s why I want to coach and teach.”

Doran is starting right away. Her first open gym was Wednesday, April 26. A parent meeting to discuss summer ball is scheduled for Monday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m.