A challenge lures Independence girls’ basketball coach to college ranks

Lauren Galvani said coaching girls’ basketball at Independence High was a “great job with great people,” but the opportunity to turn her college alma mater into a winner was too much to turn down.

Galvani, coach of the Patriots for nine years, was named earlier this week as head coach of the women’s program at Lees-McRae College in the mountain town of Banner Elk.

Galvani played her junior and senior collegiate seasons at Lees-McRae, graduating in 2015.

“They haven’t had a winning season in a long time,” Galvani said of the Bobcats, members of Conference Carolinas. “I think that with a lot of work, we can turn it around.”

“We” is Galvani and assistant coach Raven Dean, who is going with her head coach to Lees-McRae. Dean’s hiring was announced Friday.

“Lees-McRae is in a similar situation as Independence was when I arrived,” Galvani said.

Galvani, daughter of longtime North Mecklenburg boys’ coach Duane Lewis, arrived at Independence for the 2015-16 season. The Patriots had a 51-game losing streak when she arrived, and Galvani’s first Patriot team finished 1-22.

“After that first year, things got better,” she said. “I know we will need some time to get going (at Lees-McRae), but I know we can do it.”

Lees-McRae finished 2-21 during the 2023-24 season and was 2-23 the previous campaign. According to the school’s website, no women’s basketball team has compiled a winning record in the school’s 13 seasons as a four-year school.

Under Galvani, the Patriots won four Southwestern 4A tournament championships, reached the Sweet 16 twice, and got to the Elite Eight once. The most recent Independence team finished 23-6.

Fourteen Independence players have gone on to play college basketball, and junior Kamryn Kitchen is a major Division I recruit.

Galvani also served as assistant coach with Team Curry, a nationally-ranked travel basketball team.

“Dad had a chance many times to move on to a college job, but he stayed at North Meck because he didn’t want to move the family,” Galvani said. “I don’t have any children. My husband and I can make this move. It’s the time to do it.”

“And yes,” she added, “I have my heavy winter coat ready for the winters up there.”

Marvin Ridge coach

Patrick McCarthy, a veteran of the Carolinas’ youth travel basketball circuit, has been named head coach of the boys’ basketball program at Marvin Ridge.

The Mavericks finished 16-12 during the 2023-24 season. Their No. 3 and 4 scorers are slated to return next season.

McCarthy spent the last two seasons as an assistant at Carolina International, a 1A charter school in Cabarrus County. Before that, he was head coach at Lake Norman Christian.

McCarthy also has served as an assistant at Coastal Christian and R.J. Reynolds, and he has coached a number of years with the Flight 22 and PSB Elite travel teams.