It's not completely out of the ordinary for a former high school player to return to her alma mater to become a head coach.
It's a little more unusual when she is a former All-American who is replacing her father.
And it's even rarer when she has an opportunity to coach one of the top freshmen in the country … and it happens to be her daughter, Kalabrya Gondrezick
That's the situation at Benton Harbor (Mich.)
, where last season Lisa Harvey-Gondrezick replaced her father, Lou Harvey, as girls basketball head coach.
"My dad retired so that I'd have the opportunity to coach my daughter," Lisa says. "It's a gift to have that opportunity."
Like her mother, who led Louisiana Tech to the 1988 NCAA championship, Kalabrya is a point guard and considered to be one of the top freshmen in the country. She has already received scholarship offers from 10 major programs, including Duke, Georgia, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Rutgers.
"Her court awareness is her greatest strength," Lisa, 44, says. "She is a very unselfish and smart player."
The 5-foot-8 phenom's basketball genes doesn't just come from the maternal branch of the family tree. Her father, Grant Gondrezick, played for the Phoenix Suns for two seasons, and late uncle Glen Gondrezick (Grant's brother) spent six seasons playing for the Knicks and Nuggets.
"Kalabrya has a better jump shot than I ever did thanks to her father spending hours in the gym with her," Lisa is quick to point out. "She extends her elbow above her head when she shoots, like boys do, which gives her an advantage."
With her family's pedigree, Kalabrya was destined to be a basketball player. However, she says at first she despised the game.
"I hated playing when I was younger," she says with a laugh. "But in sixth grade I heard some kids call me ‘Just a pretty girl,' and I decided then that I wanted to be more than that."
Being one-dimensional at anything is something Lisa refuses to let any of her children become. Instead, she is proudest that all of her children — daughter Kysre is in eighth grade and projected to be the shooting guard next season, and son Grant is 7 — are very well-rounded.
Kalabrya carries a 4.8 weighted GPA, runs cross country, serves as president of her class, and this past fall, was crowned Miss Freshman. She is involved in several community projects and says she hopes to one day open her own private school and basketball academy for girls in Africa. It's these non-basketball traits of which Lisa is most proud.
"I expect my kids to be of high character," explains Lisa, who is the school district's coordinator of college-bound resources. "I tell them that at the end of the day it's integrity that is going to be remembered by others, not what you do on the basketball court."
On the court, Kalabrya had averages of 18.8 points, five assists, five rebounds and two steals after the fifth game for the 3-3 Tigers. She says she always looks to pass first, something instilled in her by her coach, who she enjoys playing for … most of the time.
"I like having my mom as a coach because some coaches don't always look out for what's best for their players," Kalabrya explains. "They want to use them for wins and losses. I know my mom cares about me and wants the best for me on and off the court."
However, Kalabrya admits that it's not always fun playing for her mother.
"The hardest part about having my mom as a coach is after a loss," she says with a laugh. "She'll lecture me about something I did wrong and it can be a long four or five days between games. But then I say to her, ‘I need a mommy, not a coach,' and she lightens up."
Lisa remembers being on the other side of the coach-child relationship. Lou Harvey led the Tigers to 340 wins and the 2009 Class A state championship during his 22-year Hall of Fame career. Lisa played for her father up until high school, and it was during that time when she learned from him that coaching is about much more than wins and losses.
"My dad taught me that you value the kids for what they bring to the team and make an investment into that value," says Lisa, who also coaches cross country. "I'm a philosophical coach like my father. I want to take the best of each player and then enhance that through my instruction and character building. My dad always says, ‘Make sure you teach.'"
Lou, 68, was forced out of retirement last month after a head-on collision left Lisa and her two daughters with severe injuries. He coached the team to a win the night of the accident, and to nobody's surprise, Lisa turned a near tragedy into a lesson for her team.
"All the players came into the hospital to see us before the game," says Lisa, who is still not able to stand for long periods of time while coaching, but did see her daughter return to the court Friday night for the first time since the accident. "I reminded them that you need to live your life each day as if it's your last."
Lisa's approach to not only the game of basketball, but the game of life, is what separated her from several other highly qualified coaches who applied for the position.
"Lisa brings knowledge, great work habits, stability and a strong desire for success," athletic director Willie Wilson says. "Seeing her coach her daughter and all the young ladies with class, tough love and a sense of purpose is a joy and pleasure."
It's obvious that Lisa derives an enormous amount of pleasure from coaching her players, whom she treats as if they were her own children.
"Just like I do with my own children, I keep it simple with my players - education and humanitarianism come first," she says. "Be the best person you can be and then lace up your shoes before every game as if it's your last."Jon Buzby is the sports columnist for the Newark Post, a freelance writer and on the broadcast team for the 1290AM The Ticket High School Football and Basketball Games of the Week. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.