By Merle Exit
Lucille Kyvallos has been a name associated with the pioneering of an initiative that eventually became the WNBA. Her legend as a former Queens College women’s basketball coach is now and forever printed on the college’s basketball court.
A dedication is set for Saturday with a ceremony inside Fitzgerald Gymnasium as Kyvallos becomes the first woman to have a basketball court named in her honor in New York City. The public unveiling of the court will take place at 1 p.m. and doors will open at noon.
“Coach Kyvallos was a pioneer in women’s basketball,” said Cathy Andruzzi, chair of the Lucille Kyvallos Court Fundraising Committee. “A great basketball player in her day, Coach Kyvallos’ influence on the growth of women’s basketball expanded beyond the basketball courts. She was on the forefront of the Title IX movement and positioned women’s basketball on the national sports media scene.”
Kyvallos believed that women should have the opportunity to strive to be their greatest and prove that females could be competitive athletic performers.
In 1968, Kyvallos became head coach of the Queens College women’s basketball team and held the position until 1981. With Kyvallos at the helm, the Knights were consistently ranked among the nation’s best. In 1973, they hosted the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women National Championship in Fitzgerald Gymnasium.
Kyvallos’ 1972-73 squad was the first women’s basketball team to be inducted into the NYC Basketball Hall of Fame.
It was both her coaching and vision that opened the door to a Madison Square Garden appearance for the Knights on Feb. 22, 1975, which drew a crowd of roughly 12,000 fans. A major part of the team’s success was her innovative approach, being the first coach to incorporate aerobic conditioning and weight training into her team’s regimen in order to maximize their skills.
After 12 years, Coach Kyvallos retired from coaching at Queens College, where she compiled a career record of 239-77. She was inducted into the NYC Basketball Hall of Fame, West Chester College Hall of Fame and the Queens Collefe Athletics Hall of Fame.
In 1976, she was selected to serve as the head coach of the United States women’s basketball team at the 1977 World University Games. Kyvallos was recognized with the Lapchick Character Award in 2015 and was inducted into the Queens College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012, while her 1972 team was inducted as a Team of Distinction the following year.
Although her basketball career is behind her, Kyvallos competes nationally and internationally in senior women’s tennis where she has been ranked and selected for U.S. teams in world competition. Currently, she is the USTA 2017 National Women’s 85’s Clay Court Champion.