Head coach Paul Thomas enters his ninth season at Saint Mary's in 2014-15. Thomas is the eighth head coach in the program's 29-year history.
In 2008-09, the Gaels' defense led the WCC in blocks (212) and rebounds, both offensively (483) and defensively (820). Thomas also produced his first WCC Defensive Player of the Year in Louella Tomlinson, the third player all-time in Saint Mary's history. Thomas' Gaels advanced to the second round of the West Coast Conference Tournament for the first time in four seasons, as they defeated Loyola Marymount in their opening game.
The 2007-08 season was an important year for the women's basketball program, as they made great strides and improved their RPI by 56 spots from the year before. In addition to lowering their RPI, the Gaels participated in a much stronger West Coast Conference, as the WCC finished as the eighth strongest Division I conference.
Thomas helped the Gaels gain spots in the RPI by compiling a tough 2007-08 schedule, facing 10 teams that made the postseason, including six in the NCAA tournament and four in the WNIT. Behind Thomas' scheduling Saint Mary's strength of schedule ranking improved from No. 202 to No. 68, as they improved an impressive 134 spots in just one season. Saint Mary's posted wins against four of the 10 postseason teams, including eventual WCC tournament champions, San Diego.
Thomas continues to instill his style of play in the Gaels, combining a high intensity defense with a free flowing offensive. The Gaels averaged 69.7 points per game, ranking second in the WCC. Thomas guided Jontelle Smith to her second consecutive WCC All-Conference selection, leading Saint Mary's offensively as she averaged 16.8 points per game, while knocking down 84 three-pointers on the year. Smith's 84 three-pointers boosted her career count to 190, clinching the Saint Mary's record for three-pointers made in a career.
Defensively, the most impressive stats have been achieved by a member of Thomas' first recruiting class, Louella Tomlinson. The forward broke the NCAA Division I record for blocks in a single season, totaling 156 in her freshman campaign. In addition to topping the NCAA, the Aussie shattered the WCC single season record, while breaking every Saint Mary's block record in her debut season and being named to the WCC All-Freshman Team. As a sophomore, Tomlinson broke her single season record in blocks again, recording 161 rejections. She was also named WCC Defensive Player of the Year and earned First Team All-WCC honors.
In his first season (2006-07), Thomas immediately implanted his up-tempo style to lead the Gaels to their best West Coast Conference record since the 2001-02 season. Under the direction of Thomas, Jontelle Smith was named to the All-WCC First-Team while Maija Lahde tabbed honorable mention recognition. Lauren Shaughnessy and Eghosa Obaiza garnered WCC All-Academic honors.
The Gaels scored over 75 points six times, including a 100-91 outburst against Northridge and a 95-73 victory over Toledo. Saint Mary's 68.5 points per game ranked second in the conference. The Gaels ranked in the top three in the WCC in eight different categories. SMC paced the conference in rebounding and was second in blocked shots. Ten different Gaels ranked in the top five in individual categories.
In his first appearance in McKeon Pavilion, Thomas led the Gaels to one of their biggest comebacks in recent memory. The Gaels used a 17-3 run and 48 second-half points to upend the visiting Hurricanes in a thrilling 69-68 victory.
Thomas immediately instituted the "Red Zone" into the women's basketball program upon arriving, helping family, friends, and fans create interest in Saint Mary's women's basketball throughout the campus and surrounding communities. Members of the group receive multiple benefits in addition to season tickets, such as, t-shirts, chalk-talks, socials, holiday parties, media guides, and an invitation to the end of the year banquet.
In 12 seasons at Cal Poly Pomona, Thomas' accumulated an overall record 235-108 (.685), and was 115-32 (.782) over his last five seasons, which included three conference championships and two national titles.
Thomas reached the Division II NCAA Tournament eight out of the 12 seasons with a 14-6 postseason record. He has recruited and coached two National Players of the Year, six First Team Kodak All-Americans, four CCAA Players of the Year and 15 First Team All-Conference players. Prior to becoming head coach at Cal Poly Pomona, Thomas served as an assistant coach at Cal Poly Pomona for four seasons.
Thomas joined Cal Poly Pomona out of Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota where he served as head coach for a pair of seasons. Prior to joining Hamline, Thomas was the women's assistant coach at his alma mater of Wayne State College. He worked with the Wildcats for three seasons (1985-88) earning his bachelor's degree (1986) and his master's degree (1988) in physical education. Thomas also worked at Pender High School in Pender, Nebraska where he was a girls' basketball assistant coach.
Thomas played two years of college basketball at Midland Lutheran College (Fremont, Nebraska) before transferring to Wayne State to concentrate on coaching. He played his high school ball at Creighton High School in Creighton, Nebraska, where he was an all-state forward and the team's Most Valuable Player for the Bulldogs.
Paul resides in Orinda and has three children Jacob, Michaela and Annika.