For Sammy Prahalis, the gym at Commack High School that she packed during her spectacular career is no longer her home court.
Prahalis, 27, accepted the girls basketball coaching job at Suffolk I rival Ward Melville on Thursday.
“Playing against Commack will be completely sick, but I’m super-excited about it,” said Prahalis, a six-year varsity starter for the Cougars from 2002-08. “This was the plan all along. To come back to Long Island and coach.”
After earning Newsday All-Long Island honors as a sophomore, junior and senior, as well as being a second-team choice as a freshman, Prahalis starred at Ohio State, where she averaged 15.1 points and 6.8 assists per game over four years. After the Phoenix Mercury made her the sixth overall pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft, she played two years in the WNBA and four years professionally in Europe.
“I thought it was time,” she said of retiring as a player. “I didn’t like going from country to country. I got tired of it. I’m very close to my family and I got tired of missing family stuff.”
Prahalis said she didn’t consider coaching while she was in high school or college, but “I got the bug when I was in Europe. I decided I wanted to coach.”
When she returned to Long Island in the spring, a friend told her about an opening at Ward Melville. She said she interviewed for the position early in the summer, was informed in mid-August that she got the job and was formally approved on Thursday.
“I’m so amped up. Just super-excited to be coaching on Long Island,” said Prahalis, who scored 2,372 points for Commack, the fifth-best total in Long Island girls basketball history.
Prahalis played with style and speed at every level and hopes to bring some of that to Ward Melville, which tied Commack for the Suffolk I regular-season title last season and lost in the Suffolk A quarterfinals.
“I’ll see what I have, but I want to run and be aggressive,” she said. “The only thing I’ll really demand is that they work hard every time they step onto the floor. I don’t want to say too much about what I did in the past. This is a new chapter and it’s all about them. I’m confident that my enthusiasm and competitiveness will rub off on them.”
Asked what it will be like to face his former player on Jan. 2 when Ward Melville visits Commack, Cougars coach Denis Conroy said with a laugh, “It’ll be interesting. She obviously knows what it takes to win. She’s very competitive and she has what it takes to be a successful coach.”