Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

I remember Laura Beeman, barely.

I knew her dad, Jerry, a lot better.

The guy lifted San Gorgonio High School into the highly competitive boys’ soccer world.

Laura was probably hanging around a gym, dribbling, shooting, learning to play basketball. No soccer for this kid, I’m guessing.

Jerry Beeman, competing in a hard-nosed Citrus Belt League soccer world, probably showed up in the Spartans’ gym every so often – San Bernardino High in Laura’s final seasons. Little did anyone realize, perhaps, is that Jerry’s little girl might’ve been laying the groundwork for her own coaching career.

She was a terrific player.

After a playing career that shifted from UC Riverside to Cal State San Bernardino between 1987-91, Beeman’s career eventually settled into coaching.

A Hall of Famer at Cal State, she had been that good of a player during the Lady Coyotes’ NCAA Division 3 days.

Laura Beeman Hall of Fame plaque
Laura Beeman, a homegrown San Bernardino basketball player, went on to become an All-American, a school record-holder and an eventual Hall of Famer (photo by Cal State San Bernardino).

Fast forward a few years: Beeman led Mt. San Antonio College to a myriad of women’s state championships and powerhouse status – 390-110, 4 California championships between 1995-2010.

Alongside Laker legend Michael Cooper, Beeman held a key role on the WNBA Los Angeles Sparks. She was Cooper’s assistant coach. Beeman had a hand in coaching the likes of Tina Thompson, Candace Parker (though on maternity leave one season) and the sensational Lisa Leslie.

One footnote: It wasn’t until Cooper’s second season, the Sparks going 10-24 in 2007, that he brought in Beeman as an assistant. The team responded with back-to-back playoff seasons in 2008 and 2009, losing in the conference finals both years.

By 2010, the Cooper-Beeman coaching combo wound up at USC, where the Women of Troy responded with 19-12 and 24-13 seasons with that duo running the sideline.

This was March 2011. During her two-year stint as a USC assistant coach, Laura Beeman stands in a group of Women of Troy players. Left to right: Briana Gilbreath (15), Jacki Gemelos (23), Beeman, plus Cassie Harberts (11) (Photo by Flickr).

In 2012-2013, Beeman took an open coaching position at the University of Hawaii, the goal of turning around its women’s hoops program beckoning her to the islands.

All these coaching gigs, dreams and all, had all started in Redlands.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d seen her play – first in high school, later at Cal State. Never interviewed her. Never got her aside to talk about her future. Never even saw a feature story on this dynamic player who turned basketball into a nice academic career – a graduate at Cal State, plus two Masters degrees.

Mickey McAulay, hired by Redlands in 1989 to try and turn the Lady Bulldogs into solid-class contenders, went from 7-19 to 16-9 in one season. A year later, Redlands took second place in a conference long since dominated by other schools.

By 1992, Beeman had been invited to join the Lady Bulldogs’ staff as a graduate assistant. It was a chance to get her first Master’s degree, this in counseling.

“When I started coaching,” she told Hawaii media in recalling her roots, “the basketball coaching bug; it bit. You know, I loved playing, but I had no idea I would want to coach.”

Jerry, the soccer coach, had his own pharmacy. Soccer was only a sideline for him. But his daughter worked the pharmacy, probably sharing no desire to ever become a pharmacist.

Watching McAulay, among others, coach – what worked, what didn’t, how kids responded, how they didn’t respond – Laura was thinking, “Okay, this is kinda cool.

“You know, I can kinda figure this out as I go.”

Before she left Redlands, the Lady Bulldogs notched their first-ever SCIAC championship. McAulay, her recruiting and coaching style – she had huge success at Anaheim Katella High before showing up at Redlands – probably deserves most of the credit.

Beeman’s presence at Redlands, however, deserves some attention.

It’s curious that, after her departure, the Lady Bulldogs’ yearly records started to get worse.

She spent two seasons as Mt. SAC’s assistant before she took over as head coach. Those stops with the Sparks and USC only added to her coaching resume.

At Hawaii (102-84, six seasons), in Beeman’s first four seasons, there was a third place finish, two ties for second place and an outright 2015 Big West Conference championship.

So far, only one trip to the NCAA Tournament has come for the Rainbow Wahine. No success in the post-season, but she’s working on it.

Those early coaching years at Redlands was the beginning of the coaching connection – or a Redlands Connection.