LeAnn (Kazmer) Golembiewski, a former star forward on the Orange Coast College women's basketball team from 1992-1994, passed away on Saturday after a long battle with cancer at the age of 45.
"LeAnn was a great mom, wife and athlete and she was without a doubt, a Pirate legend," former OCC women's basketball coach Mike Thornton said. "She was a phenomenal athlete and her passing is a very big loss to the Pirate Athletics family."
Golembiewski came to OCC in 1992 from Arrowhead high school in Hartland, WI and immediately became a key member of the 1992-93 Pirate squad which finished 27-6 and advanced to the State Elite Eight for the first time in school history. As the lone starting returner for the 1993-94 season, Golembiewski earned Co-Orange Empire Conference MVP honors as the Pirates finished third in the OEC, but went on one of the more magical playoff runs in school history.
After narrow victories over Chaffey (66-65) and Riverside (59-53), OCC advanced to the State Elite Eight and took on the state's No. 1 team, the College of the San Mateo, which entered that contest with a record of 33-1. Led by Golembiewski's 25 points and 12 rebounds, the Pirates pulled off one of the biggest upsets in CCCAA history with a 68-57 win to advance to the Final Four for the first time in school history. In Golembiewski's two years at Coast, the Pirates went 49-19.
"LeAnne was our teammate, our captain and most importantly our friend," said Flo Luppani, a former teammate of Golembiewski and current women's basketball head coach at Santa Ana College. "She was the very best friend you could have. Always upbeat, always positive ... she lit up the room up with her smile. As a player, she was a tireless rebounder, a crafty scorer and as her point guard, I loved turning and watching 'Kaz' run the lane with those long, athletic legs and know I could throw her a pass and she would catch and lay it in. She was one of our leaders and her positive self-demeanor meant we always thought we would win every game. With Kaz on our team we expected to win every game.
"But mostly, what I remember is her friendship, how truly she loved you as her friend and how devoted she was to her family: her husband, Gus and her two kids, A.J. and Jena. You could spend a day with LeAnn and be happy for a week. She gave this world her very best and gave the world two beautiful children with whom her spirit will live on."
Golembiewski's name is entrenched throughout the OCC record books. She is fifth all time in scoring with 973 points, sixth all time in scoring average (15.2), second all time in career rebounds (563), third all time in career rebounding average (8.8) and she's also in the top five for a single season in total points (649, 1993-94), scoring average (19.7, 1993-94), total rebounds (349, 1993-94) and rebounding average (10.6, 1993-94).
After one of the most remarkable seasons in OCC women's basketball history, Golembiewski also competed in track and field for the Pirates and was named the OCC Female Athlete of the Year in 1993-94. She continued her athletic and academic careers at UNLV, where she competed on the Running Rebels' basketball and track and field teams.
"LeAnn went onto UNLV on a basketball scholarship, but also was the Big West Conference champion in the high jump," Thornton said. "She was a phenomenal athlete and one of the three straight first-team, all-state players who wore No. 34 which has been retired and hangs in the foyer of Peterson Gym." (Colleen Hatch in 1993 and Jamie Shine in 1996)
In 2006, Golembiewski was enshrined into the California Community College Women's Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and is one of seven Pirates to have earned such an honor, joining Thornton (2019), Shine (2002), Doug Bennett (2000), Sue Brown (1992), Nancy Hatsushi-Rodgers (2018) and Courtney Ford (2015).
"LeAnn was my best friend and my favorite," former OCC teammate Monique Sweet said. "She battled hard and strong against cancer and never gave up. We shared many great times in college, both on and off the court over the past 25 years. Most importantly, our children are friends and love each other, just like we had always hoped."
LeAnn's husband, Gus Golembiewski, is setting up a scholarship fund in her name at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, IL where their two kids, A.J. and Jena, attend school.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the LeAnn Golembiewski Memorial Scholarship Fund. This scholarship will be awarded annually to a Marian Central Catholic High School female student-athlete.
Donations can be sent to:
O'Connor Funeral Home
11603 E. Main Street
Huntley, IL 60142