MCCC Alumna Samantha Cobbs ’10 Named First Female Coach in College Men’s Basketball History


West Windsor, N.J. - Mercer County Community College (MCCC) men’s basketball team will feature its first female assistant coach in program history, when Samantha Cobbs sits on the sidelines in the coming season.

Cobbs is a 2010 MCCC graduate and women’s basketball alumna. She was a member of Mike Tenaglia’s Lady Vikings that posted a 41-20 record over two seasons and earned the Garden State Athletic Conference title in 2010.

Originally from Bordentown, Cobbs’ junior varsity coach, Yolanda Ward, nudged her towards enrolling at MCCC, saying that the veteran coach would find Cobbs to be a good fit on his roster.

After graduating with her liberal arts degree, Cobbs assisted Tenaglia, a coach who she said influenced her own style.

“Coach Mike was known for keeping it real,” Cobbs said. "He’d be the first to tell you that we’re going to get blown out by 20 tonight, but if you play smart, tough, together and with heart, maybe we’ll get blown out by 10 instead.”

Cobbs sat on Tenaglia’s sideline for six years, during which she earned her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University through MCCC’s dual admission program. She took a four-year hiatus from coaching in 2016 to pursue a master’s degree in social work but never lost the itch to get back into coaching.

“Social work is kind of what I want to do, but I really missed coaching,” Cobbs said. "I would go to my best friend’s son’s recreation games just to get back into that environment. I really missed it.”

When men’s basketball Head Coach Howard Levy heard that Cobbs was interested in getting back in the gym, he didn’t hesitate to interview her for one of his assistant positions.

Levy said that despite men holding many coaching positions on women’s teams, the opposite is nowhere near as common. As of 2020, only four women have ever held coaching positions on men’s teams in NCAA Division I, and only one, WNBA veteran Tamara Moore, has ever been named a head coach at any level. Moore currently coaches Mesabi Range College of the National Junior College Athletic Association.

“I think there should be opportunities for women in the men’s game,” Levy said. “In the back of my head I’ve been thinking about that for a while. Then a month ago, Sam called me and said she really wanted to get back in the gym.”

Levy added, “I’ve known Sam since she was a student here. Her two years as a student-athlete were my first two years as a coach at Mercer. I always like the way she played and always like the way she cared. And she always appreciated my sense of humor.”

Cobbs admitted that despite coming around on Levy’s style, which is heavily influenced by Princeton’s pace-setting basketball philosophy, she wasn’t initially convinced it would work at Mercer.

“I didn’t believe in his system when he started,” Cobbs said. “I thought, ‘this is never going to work.’ Cobbs would stay to watch the men’s games diligently, eventually realizing the method behind Levy’s coaching style and decisions.

“I guess he is pretty smart,” Cobbs said with a chuckle. “He is able to convince players to believe in what he’s doing and when it works, it works.”

In addition to having a strong voice in practice, Levy said that Cobbs’ expertise will also come in hand as the team works to extend its range from the 3-point line.

“She can shoot,” Levy said. “And I know she’s not afraid to express her opinions.”

But most importantly, Levy said that he doesn’t have to worry about how Cobbs will fit on the team.

“In the few weeks that she has been here, the guys have accepted her no problem,” Levy said. “I’m confident I’ll be able to send a group of guys to work with her and know that I’ll be comfortable with the way things are going to get done.”

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Samantha Cobbs '10 will be the first woman to coach the MCCC men's basketball team in program history.

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