CANTON – Former Heuvelton girls basketball standout Paige McCormick was hired Thursday by Chris Downs as a graduate assistant coach for the St. Lawrence University men’s basketball team.
McCormick will be the first female assistant basketball coach on a Liberty League men’s team.
The hiring comes on the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX on June 23, 1972, which required schools to provide equal opportunity for female athletes in all sports.
“When I heard that I thought it was really cool,” McCormick said of the anniversary connection. “As a world we are moving in the right direction. I’m excited that they are taking the chance on me. It says a lot about the program. To do it at a place like St. Lawrence, that’s awesome. ”
Downs worked with McCormick in the past at SLU basketball camps and, after calling other coaches, including prep school coaches to ask about the idea, he decided it was time to try something new.
“I had been thinking out of the box a little bit,” Downs said. “She had good intensity (at the camp). She thought about basketball in a way that I liked. I talked to Paige and Paige seemed to get excited about it and challenged by it. ”
Downs mentioned that today’s athlete is more welcome to new ideas and as long as they see McCormick can help them improve their game they would welcome her on the staff.
“It will only be effective if she can do the job the way I think she can do it,” Downs said. “I’m not hiring her for a novelty. I think she can recruit, coach and teach. She will do a really good job and people will think highly of her. ”
McCormick said her position with SLU will last at least two, possibly three years, and she will work toward a second master’s degree there.
McCormick, who led Heuvelton to three straight Class D state championships, recently completed her collegiate career at NCAA Division I Merrimack.
McCormick spent three seasons playing at the Division I level for UMass-Amherst and played with her sister, Madison, at Division II Roberts Wesleyan for one season.
McCormick earned a master’s degree in community health education this year at Merrimack.
“I’m super excited to be back in the north country,” McCormick said. “It’s a great way to start my hopeful coaching career. Coach Downs has done a great job with that program. I’ll get my hands dipped in a little bit of everything (as a graduate assistant). It will be a great experience for me. ”
At Heuvelton, McCormick was named the state Class D Player of the Year three straight times.
McCormick played at UMass from 2017-2020. She started 20 games as a freshman and averaged 8.1 points and 4.3 rebounds.
She led Roberts Wesleyan in scoring (14.3 points) in the 2020-21 season and helped the team win its first East Coast Conference Championship, eventually reaching the Division II Sweet 16.
McCormick averaged 5.8 points this season for Merrimack and finished with a 3.95 grade-point average.
Over the past two seasons, McCormick has grown more interested in a coaching career. She cited Ogdensburg native Lisa Boyer, an assistant at South Carolina, Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley and UConn coach Geno Auriemma as famous coaches she has always admired.
“I think I would fit in well with that,” McCormick said of coaching. “I’ve played basketball my entire life and I wasn’t ready to give it up yet. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I took coaching seriously. Hopefully I love it and keep moving forward. I think I can make a positive impact to the coaching culture. ”
The SLU men’s position came as a surprise to McCormick.
“I didn’t apply for any men’s (coaching) positions,” McCormick said. “I was applying for all these women’s positions. Providence, South Florida, West Florida, even UConn called me. I’ve been really happy with my connections I’ve built. This position is what it’s meant to be. ”