As Kelly Stallings embarks on the first head coaching job of her career, the newly named head coach of the Plano Senior girls basketball team has learned from two of the best the program has to offer.
Upon getting her start in Plano ISD in 2008 as the Lady Wildcats’ junior varsity coach, Stallings had Lynn Meger, who logged 23 years as Plano’s head coach, to lean on and learn the ins and out of running a varsity program — things like player development and the off-the-court intangibles of the job.
Following Meger’s retirement in 2014, Stallings then got to further hone her craft for six years as an assistant under former head coach Rodney Belcher as the Lady Wildcats reached their greatest heights as a program.
With Belcher recently named the first head women’s basketball coach at the upstart University of North Texas at Dallas, Stallings will next take the reins of one of the state’s premier girls basketball teams after being promoted to Plano’s next head coach on Monday.
“It’s been exciting. I’ve had so much support from teachers, coworkers, former players and coaches,” Stallings said. “To know that I’ve already made such an impact on young people in the community, I want to continue to do that and know that I do have the support of my peers and the community.”
Among those is her predecessor, who helped guide Plano to its first Class 6A state championship in 2018.
“She’s a classy lady with a lot of basketball knowledge,” Belcher said. “She’s been here at Plano Senior High for 12 years and is ready for the job. It’s well deserved, and I know I’ll be out there supporting her quite a bit. I think she’ll do a nice job.”
As Belcher mulled the possibility of returning to the college coaching ranks, Stallings said she wasn’t surprised by the eventual decision and realized that it was a possibility as Plano’s 2019-20 campaign wound to a close. In the wake of Belcher’s exit, an opportunity opened for Stallings to take a run at her first-ever head coaching job.
“I have a husband and a family, so the time has to be right to step into such a momentous and demanding role of a head coach,” Stallings said. “At this point in my life, it’s perfect to step into that role and take on that challenge.”
It’s one that brings plenty of familiarity, as Stallings acclimates to her new post with a Plano team that returns all but two players from a lineup that captured a District 9-6A championship and advanced to the regional finals.
“Our strength next year is going to be experience. We have a lot of veterans that have experience winning championships,” Stallings said. “Mikki Eddins played for our championship team and we’ve had other players who helped us win district championships and make deep playoff runs. Those seniors and veterans will really help ease the transition because I’ve already been working with them.”
Stallings said she looks to continue the standard built by her predecessors, as Plano has grown into one of the state’s elite girls basketball programs. The Lady Wildcats have qualified for the playoffs nine consecutive years, advancing at least three rounds deep seven of the past eight years — culminating in a state title in 2018.
“Rodney had continued a lot of what Lynn had put in place, so I’ll take from Rodney some continuity and things that we’ve already had in place that are successful and then tailor some things toward my personality, which is what Rodney did when he was making his transition,” Stallings said. “He has obviously elevated our program to a championship caliber and I’ve learned under him how intensity and competitiveness go into work everyday. I’m going to continue those high standards and championship mentality going forward.”
It’ll mean a different approach than her predecessor, but one Stallings is optimistic will help Plano continue its momentum.
“Rodney was a little bit more boisterous and demanding. I’m still demanding in my own ways and tend to be a motivator in a more positive as well as clearly communicating what I need from my players,” Stallings said. “It really eases the transition when you’ve been around the players. … They know my personality and they know what to expect, and we’re going to continue those same expectations in working with integrity and hard work everyday to be the best that we can be.”
“My advice to her was to be yourself and run the program the way it’s going to fit you,” Belcher added. “Coach to your strengths and do your own thing and set the program up the way that’s going to fit her and help her run it.”