L’Tona Lamonte, head women’s basketball coach at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), introduces herself as L’Tona, not Coach Lamonte. This humble “hometown girl” has returned with her family to her birthplace of Winston-Salem as a WSSU alumni (99’) and as a community leader with a trusted voice aimed at giving back. Entering her fifth season at WSSU, Coach Lamonte uses her voice on the basketball court to yell, scream, laugh, and giggle with her players, all in one hour! In her community, L’Tona uses her voice to give back to the neighborhoods that helped to raise her. Close-knit neighborhoods like Piedmont Circle and Happy Hill Gardens are where she developed a love of family, friends, and reading. She loved the Tuesday book-mobile stops and still appreciates the driver who would stay in her neighborhood, even when she was the only person reading on the bus that day. She learned the fundamentals of basketball at age 13 at a free camp in the mountains organized by Mr. Bill McClain (“Mr. Bill”). She played at the neighborhood recreation centers under the protective eye of Ben Pickett and Mr. Brown. According to L’Tona, “Keeping these centers open saved my life.” Now she is back in Winston-Salem to save the lives of others.
After graduating from WSSU as a two-sport athlete and completing an internship at the University of Tennessee with then Athletic Director Joan Cronan, Coach Lamonte spent 14 years in Division I athletics. The internship was arranged by Dr. Dennis Felder, a legend at WSSU, and was part of her bachelor’s degree in sports management. This opportunity led to coaching at Georgia Southern, Western Carolina University, North Carolina State University, Belmont University, and North Carolina Central University. While at Georgia Southern, she continued her education and earned a masters’ degree in kinesiology. She could have continued on this path of Division I success but chose to return to her alma mater and to the friends and family who protected her and encouraged her to excel in college. As the first college graduate in her family, L’Tona credits her mother, grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors for the loyalty and support that propelled her to “be the best L’Tona she can be.”
Back in Winston-Salem, Coach Lamonte pays it forward. She strives to enhance every neighborhood that she grew up in. She and the Lady Rams provide food deliveries to families in need, have plans for playground & recreation center enhancements, volunteer at Ronald McDonald House, and build homes for Habitat for Humanity. Covid-19 has impacted some of these community service opportunities, but she still found a way to safely deliver food to a local hospital and low-income neighborhoods this October. She sponsors free basketball camps at Camp Hanes and at WSSU, and serves on the board of GIDE (Guiding Institute for Developmental Education), led by the same Mr. Bill who first introduced her to basketball.
Despite her extensive coaching experience and community activism, L’Tona did not recognize the fact that she was a strong community leader until she completed Leadership Winston-Salem in 2019, finding a powerful voice for community change. “I want to empower the community, especially those who feel helpless.” She advocates for more support for the Housing Authority and programs that can provide tutoring, food, and recreation for the underserved, as well as education for residents on college preparation and smart college financing. Her messages to her players, neighbors, and daughters (she has three, Tyler, Kamry and Kadence) are important words of wisdom passed down from her mother and grandmother: turn obstacles into opportunities; work hard and give your best effort; never judge someone by “right now”; and faith without works is dead.
Coach L’Tona Lamonte is using her strong voice, powered by love for her hometown, her alma mater, and her family, to change our community. Every town needs a hometown hero like her.