Born: September 24, 1962
Town: Cranbury & Hightstown
Melanie Balcomb was born September 24, 1962 in Trenton and grew up in Cranbury. Her father was a basketball coach and as a little girl she attended countless practices and viewed miles of game film at home. Her brother and sister, Alan and Carrie, too. They played in their driveway at all hours and in all weather. They also participated in their father’s camps. A quick, smart, aggressive guard in youth leagues basketball, Melanie played in leagues and pick-up games where she was usually the only girl on the court. She stepped right into the starting lineup with the Hightstown High varsity in 1975–76 and stayed there through four seasons, regularly scoring 20 to 30 points a game, mostly on drives and pull-ups.
Melanie’s sister earned a tennis scholarship from Auburn and her brother a baseball scholarship from Georgia Southern. In 1976, Melanie went to watch her brother play and the Eagles’ coach talked her into a tryout. The following fall she was at Georgia Southern on a basketball scholarship. After one year she transferred to Trenton State (now the College of New Jersey), where she set records in steals and assists during her three seasons. After college, Melanie’s playing options in the U.S. were non-existent and she did not want to go overseas. Coaching was the next logical step.
Melanie began her career on the sidelines as an assistant at Niagara in 1985–86 and filled the same role at Ohio University and Providence before her first head coaching gig at Ashland University in 1993–94. She pushed her players to attack and score. At Providence—where she watched Rick Pitino’s men’s team—her Friars averaged an unheard-of 97 points a game one year and beat UConn in the Big East Tournament. Melanie earned a reputation as a great recruiter in Ohio and was hired to coach Xavier, in Cincinnati. She went 135–78 in seven seasons and the Lady Musketeers reached the Elite Eight with a 31-win team in the 2001 NCAA Tournament. She was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year that season.
In 2002, Melanie landed the head coaching job at Vanderbilt. In 2004, with her first recruiting class on the floor, Vanderbilt won the SEC Tournament, erasing a 22-piint halftime deficit in the final against Georgia—which had upended juggernaut Tennessee the day before. Melanie led the Commodores to the NCAA Tournament in each of her first 12 seasons. And won a program-record 310 games in all. After two subpar seasons, she resigned and accepted a job with South Carolina directing offensive analytics. SC won the NCAA championship that year.
Melanie was hired as an assistant at Texas Tech for the 2017–18 season, but resigned to attend to family health situation. She returned to the court as an assistant with Purdue in 2019.