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Eric Peterson, Published January 26 2011

Peterson: Long and winding road leads NDSCS coach Stein to 500 wins

Paulette Stein began her basketball coaching career by starting a high school girls program from scratch at a small town in New York. She even helped design the uniforms.

“It was kind of a project,” Stein said with a laugh.

That was the early 1970s. She was at Clymer Central High School, a small town about 90 miles southwest of Buffalo. Title IX was in its infant stages.

“We had to buy boys gym shorts and I went out and bought gold T-shirts,” Stein said. “We used iron-on tape and sewed that tape down (for the numbers). I had the art teacher stencil the word ‘Clymer’ on to the front of the shirt.”

Nearly four decades later, she is still coaching. Now the head women’s coach for North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, Stein recently reached a milestone, earning career victory No. 500.

“My first thing in my mind was just starting something that the girls didn’t have,” Stein said of her experience at Clymer. “And then one thing led to another.”

Stein has coached at nearly every level – high school, NCAA Division I, II and III, junior college and the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (which ceased operation in the early 1980s). Stein’s coaching stops included Augustana (Ill.) College, Northern Michigan, Butler, Eastern Michigan and Wisconsin-Parkside prior to landing at NDSCS.

“I think she is successful because she has a passion for what she’s doing,” said NDSCS athletic director and men’s basketball coach Scott Schumacher. “She puts a lot of hours into her preparation for the game. … I think that is a direct reflection on the amount of wins she has in her career.”

Stein took one year off from coaching before she got the job at NDSCS. She was thinking about just teaching at that point.

Stein bought and fixed a condo in Florida, but that hiatus didn’t last long.

“I did a lot of beach walking and I was in a golf league and I just kind of got bored after I fixed up the condo,” Stein said. “I’m glad I made the decision to get back into coaching.”

NDSCS is happy she came back, too.

Two Sundays ago, Stein notched win No. 500 as her Lady Cats defeated United Tribes Technical College 80-62 in Bismarck.

“After she won, we kind of set it up where we all got on the bus first,” said sophomore forward Ashley Holmstrom, who played for Northern Cass in high school. “As soon as she got on, we all got up and clapped for her.”

That was an emotional moment for Stein, who is in her 37th year of coaching.

“It was neat,” said Stein, who later got a card and flowers from her team. “You get goose bumps and your eyes kind of well up a little bit and it takes your breath away and it’s hard to talk. You get choked up.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com