By Eric Jensen
Photos from DeseretNews.com
Legendary is a word that can be used too liberally nowadays. It is, however, the word of choice when describing former Skyline High girls basketball coach Deb Bennett.
“Ms. Bennett is a legendary coach at Skyline High School and also at the state level,” said Skyline assistant principal Ryan Oaks upon the mention of her name. Bennett was recently inducted into the Skyline Hall of Fame, the school’s highest honor, “About ten years too late,” Oaks said.
Bennett grew up in Utah but moved around the country a lot as a child and teenager. She started teaching at Skyline in 1991 and began her career as the assistant coach of the girls basketball team.
“I had always wanted to teach PE and be a coach” Bennett said. “It was interesting though because when I grew up there were no girls’ sports in high school.”
From Idaho to Colorado to Kansas in the 1960s there were no sports for girls in high school.
“I played a lot of recreational sports,” Bennett said. “Before Title IX the sad reality was there were just not any competitive girls’ sports at the high school or collegiate level.”
It’s hard to believe how far our country and society has come from just 50 years ago. It would be unheard of in today’s world to have a high school or a college without women’s sports. Title IX was passed in 1972 just in time for Bennett’s arrival at BYU.
Bennett played tennis, field hockey (which she describes as soccer with sticks) and of course basketball. Her field hockey team made the national tournaments but Bennett’s dream was to coach basketball.
Bennett started teaching and coaching at Tooele High School where she coached tennis, volleyball, basketball, gymnastics and track. In 1990 she arrived at Skyline and ushered with her the new 90s and 2000s era of high school sports at the school.
“I started as an assistant basketball coach under Joan Burdette,” Bennett said. “She needs to be put in the Hall of Fame. Her team in volleyball was named the volleyball team of the decade under her.”
When Burdette was ready to step down as the head basketball coach, Bennett, her protégée, was more than ready. Under Bennett’s direction Skyline won two state championships and more than 300 games in her coaching career.
In fact, her career record of 327-110 puts her among the top five winningest coaches in state history. She led Skyline to 19 playoff berths, 11 region championships and those two state titles – in 2006 and 2008.
So what makes her a great coach?
“You have to make the people you’re working with know that you care about them and that you care about their success and if you do that then they will give you their respect,” Bennett said.
She has been one of the better coaches in Skyline history and her induction into the Hall of Fame is certainly well deserved for her coaching but there is also so much she has done off the court that qualifies her for this terrific award.
Bennett was a pioneer in girls high school sports, advocating for the equal financial support for girls’ teams. She brought girls sports into the public eye at Skyline with her team’s success. In so many ways Deb Bennett’s legacy has been built forever and will be remembered for generations.
Skyline High senior Eric Jensen wrote this story as part of the Preps Utah student journalism program, powered by Bank of American Fork, which will award two of our published student journalists college scholarships at the end of the school year. Jensen is a writer for the Skyline Horizon newspaper and the proud owner/writer and editor-in-chief of www.dramaofitallasportsblog.com. He is interested in a career in journalism, specifically sports journalism. Jensen’s inspirations are Al Michaels of NBC, and Chris Wesseling, Marc Sessler, Gregg Rosenthal and Dan Hanzus of the NFL.