By SETH STRINGER
NICEVILLE — Bus rides, hotel stays and Bracket Monday — all the things associated with a deep postseason run — are typically how the Northwest Florida State College women's basketball program ring in March.
Yet on Monday, following a 1-11 Panhandle Conference run to close out a postseason-less 14-13 campaign, the atmosphere took a somber turn as Tamela McCorvey notified her players that she was stepping down as head coach.
The 30-year-old was 64-30 in her three years at the Raiders' helm. During her combined eight years on the bench — one as an assistant under Bart Walker and four under the late Patrick Harrington — she helped the Raiders to a Panhandle Conference co-championship, four national tournament appearances, three Elite Eights and a Sweet 16 appearance. She was promoted to head coach in 2014 after Harrington died tragically in a car accident before the season.
"I would like to thank Coach McCorvey for the significant contributions she made to our program over the last eight years," said Ramsey Ross, NWF State's athletic director. "She has always represented our college with class and integrity and I'm grateful for the manner in which she transitioned to head coach under incredibly tough circumstances three years ago.
"Coach McCorvey has a very bright future ahead of her and will always be considered a Raider thanks to her time as a player and coach at NWF State."
The departure comes after the Raiders finished last in the Panhandle Conference, inarguably the toughest league in the country with perennial powers Gulf Coast State (reigning NJCAA national champion), Chipola and Tallahassee currently ranked in the top eight nationally.
The Raiders began Panhandle Conference play on a high note, defeating Pensacola State 71-67 on Jan. 11. At the time they were ranked 12th nationally and 14-2.
They wouldn't win another game.
For the next head coach, returning the Raiders to national prominence is priority No. 1.
"Our search for the new leader of our women's basketball program will begin immediately," Ross said. "We will aggressively pursue the most qualified candidate who is also the right fit for our institution. This will be a coach we believe can and will have us consistently competing for conference, state and national championships, all while doing so with the utmost integrity that is in line with the values we emphasize at NWF State."
McCorvey, a Pensacola native, leaves behind a rich legacy not only as a coach, but as a player.
McCorvey led the nation in 3-point shooting while at then-Okaloosa-Walton Community College, hitting 109 long-range shots at a 59 percent clip in her two years. Her play twice garnered All-Panhandle Conference first-team and All-Region VII first-team honors, and she was named first-team All-State and an honorable mention All-American. Through her career on the school's Niceville campus, McCorvey averaged 11 points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals per contest.
She then found success at Auburn, scoring points in 59 of 64 career games and recording double-digit totals in 24 contests. Her 90 3-pointers ranked seventh all-time in school history when she departed.
After finishing 28-5 in her first year at the helm and making a third straight Elite Eight appearance before a 68-54 loss to Hutchinson, McCorvey seemed destined to have a bright future at NWF State.
The following year, McCorvey's Raiders hit a bumpy spell before salvaging the season with an inspired postseason run. Despite going 5-8 in conference play, the 22-12 Raiders upset a pair of top-three programs in Daytona State and Chipola in the Region 8 tournament en route to a Sweet 16 appearance in the national showcase.
But this season there'd be no inspiring turnaround.