By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Her college softball coaching career included a pair of jobs at Division 1 schools in the Western Athletic Conference and the Ivy League.
Before Dee Dee Enabenter of Plymouth worked at the top collegiate level, though, she got her start in coaching at her alma mater, Division 3 Bridgewater State University.
Enabenter guided the Bears to the NCAA tournament 12 times in 16 seasons and compiled a 429-153-3 record starting in 1984 and ending in 2000.
For all that she accomplished at Bridgewater State, Enabenter is being honored by the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference.
Enabenter is part of the first class of inductees to earn a spot in the newly formed MASCAC Hall of Fame, joining conference founders Paul Bogan, Howard Smith and James Sullivan, Salem State women's basketball All-America Evelyn Oquendo and Westfield State hockey standout Peter Laviolette, now the head coach of the Nashville Predators.
"I think there are so many great coaches who have coached in the MASCAC, and to be the first in is really humbling,″ said Enabenter. "I never expected it. I'm really happy about it. I told someone the past never seems to leave me. For people to think about the past like that is really humbling.″
Enabenter, a women's basketball and softball captain at Bridgewater State, graduated in 1983 and became the softball coach in the 1984 season.
The Bears never finished with a losing record under Enabenter and won at least 33 games on five occasions. It all began with a 21-6-1 season in '84 when Enabenter was coaching some of her former teammates.
"Originally, I had gone to UMass Amherst on a partial basketball scholarship, but I only stayed a few months and then I took four years off,″ said Enabenter, who later became the head coach at San Jose State and Brown University. "So when I went back to school, I was four years older than the other student-athletes when I got to Bridgewater.
"But for them to even consider me to coach was really something. It wasn't like I was 21, but for them to offer me the position, I really appreciated it. They had a lot of confidence in my ability. I had no experience as a coach, other than summer fast-pitch leagues. To give me that responsibility, I was really grateful.″
Enabenter took Bridgewater State to the national championship round in 1994 where the Bears were edged by Trenton State, concluding a memorable 39-8 season.
"No one knew where we were from,″ recalled Enabenter, who was picked as the national Division 3 coach of the year that season. "I think we had one player on all three of the All-American teams. We didn't need those accolades. Because we weren't known, I think it surprised a lot of people.
"To put Bridgewater on the map, that was special for all of us. Coming out of nowhere and not being a ranked team, having one All-American, that made it extra special. I think it helped us to be the unknown.
"We weren't surprised by what we did but I think a lot of people were surprised. Everybody was so proud to be from Bridgewater State, to establish the foundation that we did.″
The Bears also advanced to the nationals in 1998 and 1999, going a combined 73-20, and Enabenter was hired by San Jose State of the WAC after the 2000 season.
She won a program-record 36 games in 2005 and was the conference coach of the year in 2006 before returning to New England to coach Brown from 2007-12.
"Everybody wants to test their talents at the very top level,″ said Enabenter, who is living in Plymouth again. "I'm glad I got a chance to see what I'm capable of doing and see if those different philosophies and strategies will carry over at the top level.
"What I learned over the years is some of the best coaches are in Division 3. Bridgewater gave me a great foundation where we did focus on the fundamentals. I really appreciated the foundation I had by coaching at Bridgewater.″
Enabenter was involved in a serious auto accident in Kingston in October 2015 and underwent extensive physical therapy until last September after suffering multiple injuries.
"It made me age 20 years,″ said Enabenter. "It messed me up good. But I'm glad I'm still here. I'm not going to complain.″
Bridgewater State is planning to honor Enabenter for being named to the MASCAC Hall of Fame during a home athletics event this fall.