Mia Smith’s peers have bestowed their highest honor on the Illinois Wesleyan women’s basketball coach.

Smith was presented Monday night with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s Division III National Coach of the Year award during the WBCA’s annual convention in Denver.

The honor comes after Smith guided the Titans to their first Division III national championship. IWU earned the title on March 17 with a 57-48 victory over George Fox at Hope College in Holland, Mich.

“It’s the pinnacle,” Smith said of the award. “The title of the award is the WBCA Coach of the Year, but it’s really a tribute to my kids … to my 15 players and my staff and the whole IWU community. It’s an award I really share with them.”

The Titans finished with a 28-5 record, capturing the crown in an emotional season in which Smith was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

“As the season went on and with the girls winning the national championship, I thought there were so many things that were meant to be,” Smith said. “This was one I didn’t really think of as a possibility, but it’s a really nice gesture on behalf of the Division III committee.”

Smith upped her overall record to 282-108 in 14 years as IWU coach. Included is a 145-51 mark in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (.725). The Titans have won six CCIW championships and made seven NCAA Division III appearances under Smith, including a

national fourth-place finish in 2011.

The WBCA names a national coach of the year to one coach in each of the NCAA divisions who best meets the following criteria (in priority order): team success during current season, team improvement from previous season, fulfillment of team potential and professional manner and attitude of coach.

Nominees are voted upon online by WBCA member head coaches. A selection committee in each division chooses the national coach of the year via conference call from the pool of regional coaches of the year. Division III includes its Final Four coaches in the pool of nominees.

Smith previously was named the 2012 Schelde North America/Women’s DIII News Coach of the Year. Her team was led this season by D3hoops.com Player of the Year and national tournament most valuable player Olivia Lett.

Smith has been the CCIW Coach of the Year four times, regional coach of the year three times and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Division III Coach of the Year on three occasions.

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