Colorado Springs School girls’ basketball coach Vicki Vaughan might have the most overqualified assistant coach in the state, if not the country.
After helping the United States win its first Olympic gold medal in women’s basketball at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and a professional playing and coaching career abroad that spanned nearly three decades, Cathy Boswell finds herself a seat or two down from her college teammate on the bench of the Class 2A Kodiaks as a volunteer assistant.
While only six months separate Boswell and Vaughan in age, they only spent two years together on the Illinois State women’s basketball team, partly because Boswell started college at 16. The Olympian left ISU as the Redbirds’ career leader in points and rebounds.
Boswell was a dominant post player for the Redbirds at 6-foot tall with broad shoulders and what Vaughan called “paws” for hands. She transitioned to a graceful perimeter player with the help of a little ingenuity.
Vaughan recalls Boswell using a fishing vest she filled with buckshot to provide added resistance before the practice became popular. It made her more explosive and allowed her to add another wrinkle to her game.
“She’d wear it all the time. When she took it off, she was flying like Michael Jordan,” Vaughan recalled.
“She has a real soft touch with the ball, real smooth release. If you saw her playing she just floats. She was to watch. It was fun to be a teammate of hers.”
Those two years in Normal, Ill., were enough time to forge a bond that withstood thousands of miles of separation for long stretches of time.
“We’ve been best friends ever since,” Boswell said. “Even when I graduated from college, I would come back and visit with her and practice with the girls.”
Following professional stints that took her to Greece, Spain, Italy and Germany and saw her play in the American Basketball League - the closest thing to the WNBA at the time - Boswell took an assistant coaching job at her alma mater in 2015, leaving her post as coach of Tenerife, a Spanish club.
When the ISU experience soured, Boswell considered returning to Europe where she has resident status.
Vaughan also felt a little burnt out after leaving Air Force as an assistant, so she phoned her friend with a different idea.
“She wasn’t in a really good place with basketball,” Vaughan said. “I talked to her and I said ‘Listen, I’ve got a place you can stay with us.’”
Boswell already had a favorable impression of Colorado Springs. She visited when she represented the Midwest in the Junior Olympics and helped Vaughan at camps and served as a honorary CSS coach for a game in later years.
Now, she’s back offering help to whoever seeks it. Her first job at CSS was to use the knowledge gained in soccer-crazy countries to help the Kodiak boys this fall before working with the CSS middle school and high school hoopers.
“If someone wants to shoot extra shots, I’m here,” Boswell said.
“I’m more than happy to spend an extra hour helping them out.”
That was on display after Saturday morning’s practice, as the former pro helped a promising Kodiak freshman through post step-through moves and free throws.
“They’re soaking it up,” Vaughan said. “Their enthusiasm for having her around … they’ve embraced her.”
And the woman who played for Pat Summit and teamed with the likes of Cheryl Miller and Kim Mulkey in 1984 - not to mention hanging with the men’s team that featured Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing and was coached by Bobby Knight - appears to have embraced the opportunity to work with the Kodiaks.
“They’re a great team,” Boswell said of the 9-2 squad. “They respect each other. They work well together, and they respect the coaches and the job that we’re doing here. It’s just been a joy to be here.”
Boswell, who’s affectionately referred to as ‘Bos,’ isn’t sure how long she’ll stay in a position she’s grossly overqualified for, but she’s happy in the moment.
“I don’t want to say I’m going to be here for a little while or a long while,” she said. “I’m just, right now, in the moment. Present, enjoy what I’m doing right now, and we’ll see.”
Vaughan and many others in the community wouldn’t mind seeing ‘Bos’ stick around.
“I’ve had numerous people come up to me like ‘You need to keep her.’ It’s not so much her basketball IQ, it’s a lot more who she is as a person,” Vaughan said.
“She’s a gold medalist in so many ways in her life.”