Seton coach Karen Self in a class of her own - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Seton coach Karen Self in a class of her own

May 11th, 2018 development
Seton coach Karen Self in a class of her own
Sports and Recreation

By Jake Trybulski, Contributor


Seton Catholic High School coach Karen Self casually struts by a packed trophy case with Sentinel accomplishments from over the years.

The school has had success in multiple sports, but Self and her Seton Catholic girls’ basketball family figuratively have their own set of keys to the trophy case because they add to it so often.

In February, Self claimed her 10th state title when her Lady Sentinels defeated Pueblo High School 55-42 in a hard-fought 4A championship game at Grand Canyon University.

The victory made her the winningest high school head basketball coach in Arizona history.

Even after 26 years as head coach at the same school, 687 career wins, and a 2017 Arizona High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame induction, Self claims she is as motivated as ever to be part of Seton Catholic’s atmosphere.

“I just love what I do and being at Seton. I have had other schools call me and tell me, ‘We can do this for you,’ but (they) can’t give me this environment,” Self explained.

Self, a native of New York, came to Arizona in 1987 when she committed to play basketball at Arizona State University.

There, she met her husband, who convinced her that teaching and coaching was what she was meant to do in life. Self said she originally wanted to move back to New York to continue being involved in basketball but start a career in a different field.

Self said that after accepting a coaching position in 1992 at Seton Catholic fresh out of ASU, she wanted to quit coaching heading into her second season.

“I had no idea what I was doing, I thought I couldn’t do it,” Self said. “My first year I wanted to quit. I was too afraid to tell them (Seton Catholic) I wanted to quit, and I waited and waited and my husband basically told me it was too late and I had to coach my second year, and that’s when the fire took hold.”

Seton Catholic went 13-13 in year one with Self at the helm but produced a 15-6 record in her second season. Things really started to take off for Seton Catholic in the next five years as the team lost just nine games and won three state championships.

“It wasn’t about the success on the court, but I could see what I was trying to get across was taking hold. They were finding success because they were following the plan,” Self said. “I learned that kids will do well if they can, so I try and find what is getting in their way.”

She says that she has had good influences in her life that helped her adopt this mentality.

Self said she has learned so much about leading and mentoring from ASU women’s head basketball coach Charlie Turner Thorne.

Self was quick to point out the impact her late friend Michael Eubanks has had on her as well. Eubanks, Seton Catholic’s former athletic director and dean, passed away in 2001 in a car accident.

“He definitely influenced me to bring my best every day, in everything I do,” Self said.

Self also spoke about becoming a mother and raising her four children as a major influence. She said it helped her learn patience which she has embraced as a coach.

Self said the patience she learned is the best way to raise a basketball family and help develop young women on and off the court.

She has many titles as a mother, wife, coach and teacher, but perhaps the best way to describe her is selfless.

Seton Catholic senior’s Sarah Barcello and Kendall Krick are both heading to Marist College on basketball scholarships this fall. Both three-time state champions credit Self in helping them prepare for life ahead.

“She’s strong and an inspiring person. She pushes us every day in school and basketball,” Barcello said. “She always tells us we have a target on our back but to worry about our own game.”

Through the years, Self has found a lot of success on the court, and she’s quick to give praise to those who support her every day. She admits she would not be able to coach and do the things she does without the wonderful support from administration, her family and her assistant coaches.

Though she has found much success on the court over the past 25 years, Self  emphasized the things that happen off the court as to why she enjoys coaching so much.

“Anytime I get invited to a baby shower, bridal shower, wedding or things like that, those are the moments I do this for,” Self said.

As for what is next for her to accomplish?

“I just got to get us ready for next year. That is where my mind is at,” Self replied.