Willetta Spease, the winningest girls varsity basketball coach in Section III history, was an excellent judge of talent and pushed her players to reach their potential on the court. Spease coached at Henninger and Fowler before establishing a state powerhouse at a third Syracuse high school, Nottingham.
In her 21 years with the Bulldogs, Spease achieved a 408-63 record and won 12 Section III championships and five Class B public school state titles (1981, '84, '88, '89 and '90). Spease, the 1989 state coach of the year, retired from coaching only eight games shy of 500 career victories. She finished with an overall career mark of 492-70.
In 1996, Spease was the first woman inducted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame. She served as coach and supervisor at various summer camps at the University of Buffalo, Rutgers University, Syracuse City Schools and Onondaga Community College. She also was the head coach of Central Region scholastic team at the Empire State Games.
Besides coaching, Spease served as a physical education teacher for years with the Syracuse City School District before retiring from teaching in 2000.
1965: St. Augustine’s College, Raleigh, North Carolina, BA Physical Education
1971: Studied at North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina
1974: Graduate study at SUNY Cortland
1975: Graduated from Syracuse University with a Masters Degree in Education
1979-2000: Nottingham High School girls’ basketball coach, won 14 league titles, 12 sectional titles, 5 state titles and 4 federation titles
1983: Post-Standard Woman of Achievement in Athletics
1988: Received a citation from Syracuse Mayor Tom Young for Tradition of Excellence in Girls Sports
1989: New York State Coach of the Year. American Legion Post 1642 Community Service Award.
1990: NYSSWA State Coach of the Year; Received New York State coaches Honor Award presented by Governor Cuomo; New York State Coaches Association Coach of the Year
1991: Section III Coach of the Year Award; Named "Winningest Coach" in New York State by USA Today
1992: Recognized for dedication to Special Education Students in Central New York
1996: Inducted into the New York State Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame