West Virginia University basketball legend Lester Rowe returns for his sixth season as assistant coach for the women’s basketball program. Rowe joined Mike Carey’s women’s staff in June 2011.
Most recently, Rowe helped the Mountaineers return to the NCAA Tournament with a 25-10 overall record and a 12-6 third place finish in the Big 12. The Mountaineers were stingy on defense, ranking as one of the nation’s top defenses all season. West Virginia won a 2015-16 NCAA Statistical Award with 6.5 blocked shots per game. The Mountaineers reached the NCAA Championship Second Round after picking up a victory over Princeton.
WVU’s Bria Holmes became a three-time unanimous All-Big 12 First Team selection and a five-time All-America honoree. Holmes would later become the program’s highest WNBA Draft pick with her 11th overall selection in the first round by the Atlanta Dream in April 2016.
Center Lanay Montgomery picked up Big 12 All-Defensive Team and All-Big 12 Second Team accolades. Additionally, Tynice Martin was tabbed the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and named a finalist for National Freshman of the Year by the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).
The 2014-15 Mountaineers dominated inside with a school single-season record of 1,621 rebounds as West Virginia reached the WNIT Championship game. WVU deflected a program-best 242 blocks, breaking a record that stood for over 30 years. West Virginia’s 6.4 blocks per game led the Big 12 and ranked sixth nationally.
Sophomore center Lanay Montgomery became the first Mountaineer since the legendary Georgeann Wells to block over 100 shots in a season. Her 124 deflections led the conference and sat 10th in the NCAA for the 2014-15 season.
The 2013-14 season had many firsts. WVU recorded its most wins in program history with a 30-5 overall record, made its fifth consecutive NCAA appearance with a No. 2 seed—the highest in program history, recorded its highest ranking to date in program history at No. 5 in the Associated Press poll and recorded wins over five top-25 teams, including four in the top 15, also a feat never done before.
The Mountaineers captured a 2014 Big 12 regular-season championship, finishing with a 16-2 league record and sharing the top of the league standings with Baylor. WVU made a run to the Big 12 Championship title game, while senior center Asya Bussie and sophomore guard Holmes were each named to the Big 12 All-Tournament Team. In addition to the tournament, Bussie and Holmes were All-Big 12 First Team honorees, including a unanimous selection for Holmes. Bussie was also named Big 12 All-Defensive Team alongside classmate Jess Harlee and Taylor Palmer as the Big 12’s Sixth Man of the Year.
At the close of the season, Bussie was selected in the second round by the Minnesota Lynx as the No. 15 overall pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft. At the time, Bussie became WVU’s highest WNBA Draft pick in program history. The Randallstown, Maryland, native was a two-time All-American Honorable Mention selection by the Associated Press and the WBCA.
Rowe was a part of WVU’s fourth consecutive NCAA appearance in the 2012-13 season. Closing out its inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference with a 17-14 overall record and a 9-9 mark in league play, WVU landed a No. 6 seed in its first-ever Big 12 Conference Tournament. Four Mountaineers added all-conference honors to their names as Christal Caldwell earned first team, Ayana Dunning closed out her career with an honorable mention accolade, Jess Harlee was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team and Bria Holmes landed a spot on the Big 12 All-Freshman Team.
In its inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference, WVU faced eight opponents, four twice, ranked in the top-50 RPI, defeating back-to-back top-25 Associated Press ranked teams en route to three total wins over ranked opponents, recorded seven road wins and trailed by 10 or more in three games, in which the Mountaineers rallied for a comeback win. Off the court, six Mountaineers were honored by the conference on the Academic All-Big 12 team, the most players of any team to earn the honor.
In his first season, Rowe assisted a young WVU squad to its third consecutive NCAA tournament and fourth in the last five seasons. The Mountaineers closed out the 2011-12 season in a tie for fourth place and earned a bye in the BIG EAST Championship.
For the first time in program history, WVU defeated three straight top 25 teams, including the highest ranked opponent in program history as the Mountaineers took a 65-63 victory from No. 2 Notre Dame in front of a sold out crowd on national television. The win was WVU’s first ever in Notre Dame, Indiana.
Three players earned all-conference honors as junior Asya Bussie, the 15th player in WVU history to reach 1,000 points and 500 rebounds, was named first team All-BIG EAST, sophomore Christal Caldwell earned All-BIG EAST honorable mention and Linda Stepney was named to the All-BIG EAST freshman team.
Rowe first reunited with the Mountaineer basketball program when he was hired as an assistant coach on Gale Catlett’s staff in September 1997. In addition to coaching, he assisted in on-campus recruiting, scouting and served as a player liaison in administrative matters. In his first season as an assistant, WVU won 24 games and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 1998.
Known to Mountaineer fans as “Lester Rowe from Buffalo,” he was a four-year starter and West Virginia went 90-23 and won three conference championships during his playing career.
A two-time team captain, Rowe finished his career with 1,524 points, which currently ranks 17th in school history and 787 rebounds, which ranks 13th in school history. He played in 121 games, making 114 career starts. Rowe ranks fourth in career field goal percentage at 54.2 percent. For his career, he averaged 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
Rowe was named the Atlantic 10 tournament Most Valuable Player in 1984. He was twice named to the Atlantic 10 All-Tournament Team in 1983 and 1984. Rowe earned Atlantic 10 All-Conference Second Team honors in 1985 and earned Atlantic 10 Player of the Week honors three times during his career. As a freshman, he was named Eastern 8 Player of the Week and named to the Eastern 8 All-Freshman Team.
A member of the 1976-85 WVU all-time basketball team, Rowe played professional basketball for eight years in Argentina, the Philippines, Venezuela, France, Germany and the United States.
The Buffalo, New York, native earned a bachelor’s of science degree in physical education from West Virginia in 1985.
Rowe was previously a commercial property manager and sales executive with Petroplus Lane, LLC. From 2005-10, Rowe played an integral role in West Virginia AAU Basketball as he served as the head coach of the West Virginia Hornets and assisted with the West Virginia Tornadoes and the West Virginia Blue Devils.
In 2014, Rowe was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. He and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters, Monalisa and Monique.