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Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Sherry Levin steps down as Worcester Academy girls' basketball coach after 263 wins, 4 NEPSAC titles and countless memories

By Jennifer Toland, Telegram & Gazette,

2023-03-14
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Sherry Levin’s Holy Cross coach and mentor, Togo Palazzi, always stressed to his players the importance of building relationships.

Throughout her playing days, professional life and distinguished coaching career, Levin heeded Palazzi’s guidance, and made unbreakable bonds with teammates, colleagues, and, most importantly to her, her own players.

“The players are the reason why I coach,” Levin said.

After 14 successful seasons, over two tenures, coaching the Worcester Academy girls’ basketball team, Levin, a 1984 Holy Cross graduate, decided she will not return in 2023-24.

“It was just a good time for me to kind of put a pause on this phase of my basketball world,” Levin said. “I loved Worcester Academy and being part of the community. I had a wonderful time. I just felt this was the right time for me.”

Levin, who coached the Hilltoppers from 2001-08 and 2016-2023, went 263-46 (.851 winning percentage), and guided WA to four NEPSAC championships (2004, 2006, 2018 and 2019).

“We had great success,” Levin said. “I’m very thankful for all of the people who had a part of that, thankful and appreciative.”

This year’s team finished 18-7 and played in the quarterfinals of the NEPSAC Class AA tourney.

“Sherry has left an indelible mark on the Worcester Academy girls’ basketball program in two distinct, but equally impressive stints as our girls’ basketball coach,” Worcester Academy director of athletics Ed Reilly said. “Her level of accomplishment and achievement is noteworthy and Worcester Academy’s status as one of the region’s premier girls’ basketball programs is a direct reflection on Coach Levin and a testament to her hard work and dedication.”

Levin famously coached Aliyah Boston, the reigning National Player of the Year who has top-ranked South Carolina poised to make a second straight NCAA Tournament championship run.

“I had the joy of coaching Aliyah for three years,” Levin said, “and seeing somebody who had a dream, and I was able to be a guiding force in her dream becoming a reality.”

Levin, in fact, coached three future college national champions at WA. Caleigh Crowell won a Division 2 title at Bentley and Jackie Renner a Division 3 crown at Amherst.

This year’s tri-captain, Oluchi Okanawa, will head to Duke in the fall.

“That’s another crowning achievement for her,” Levin said. “She is a quality person and an amazing player. She came to Worcester Academy saying, ‘This is a dream of mine. Can you show me how?’ She was willing to put in the time and listen, and when you get those kids who say, ‘Give me more coach. Tell me how coach,’ and they follow along, that’s really rewarding.”

Levin, who works for Generation W, a non-profit that educates, inspires and connects women and teens, departed Worcester Academy after the 2008 season to become director of athletics and girls’ basketball coach at Beaver Country Day.

When she returned to WA in 2016, she said it was like coming home.

Being near Holy Cross, where she is the all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball history and a hall of fame member, was also special for Levin.

In 2021, HC named its women’s basketball players lounge in Levin’s honor. In January, Levin was one of five Holy Cross legends to have her uniform retired. Levin’s No. 24 now hangs in the Hart Center rafters, across from the late Palazzi’s No. 22.

“Holy Cross is near and dear to me,” Levin said, “and as big to me as any part of my life.”

At the World Maccabiah Games, Levin coached U.S. teams to five gold medals.

Levin said she has remained close to many of her players from all of her teams.

“There are so many people who impacted me,” she said, “and I hope I had an impact on them in a positive way.”

—Contact Jennifer Toland at jennifer.toland@telegram.com. Follow her on Twitter @JenTolandTG.

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