(originally published on March 20, 2013)
This is the time of the year when there are a lot of open basketball coaching positions. Most good athletic directors should have some kind of a working list of potential replacements if they should ever have an opening in one of their sports. Yes, they can accept resumes but they should have some names and ideas of people that they might want to go after. This is the same whether you are a DI athletic director or a small college athletic director.
After finishing up my second year of serving on the tournament committee for the NAIA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship, I wanted to highlight a few coaches that would be good options for an athletic director to include on their short lists. Realize that all coaches that appear in a national tournament have accomplished great things and done a good job of getting their teams to that point. However, these are just a few of the great coaches that I observed over the last two years that I wanted to highlight. Some coaches I didn’t put on this list because I know that they are completely entrenched in their current position and I wouldn’t be able to hire them away if I was an AD. Others have left the NAIA already (like last year’s championship game coaches, Mark Campbell at Union and Rob Edmission at Oklahoma City) so they were not eligible to make this list.
Kirsten Moore (Westmont University)
This is a no-brainer for any athletic director at any level. She won the 2013 NAIA NationalChampionship. She is the first female national championship coach since 2004 when Lori Carter led Southern Nazarene University to the title. If you are a Division I athletic director with an opening, especially anywhere in the western part of the country, then you should take a strong look at her. Kirsten is highly respected among her peers. She is on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. She is enthusiastic, has Division I playing and coaching experience, and has a lot of head coaching success. She coached an Olympian, who was the National Player of the Year. What’s more, her staff (Selena Ho, Emilie Johnson and Meghan Gnekow) is extremely competent and seem to have bright futures. What makes her winning a title this year even more remarkable is the fact that she did it despite enduring a tremendous personal tragedy. She has provided an amazing example to her players about perseverance and character this year.
Marty Rowe (Lee University)
Ended the year with a 34-3 record after coming up short in the NAIA National Championship game this year. His record in 9-years at Lee University is an incredible 260-52 (28.8 wins per year). He has been to the NAIA Fab-4 a total of three times with 2 different teams. His 2004 Brescia University squad shocked everyone when they played their way into the National Semifinals before losing to eventual champions, Southern Nazarene. His Brescia squads never had the resources that other teams did but he still managed to post a 131-65 record while he was there. He is a great recruiter that has made a living of identifying potential DI kids early and then signing them before DI’s can really get going in the recruitment of them. His teams score a lot of points, defend like crazy and are tough on the boards. Basketball-wise, his teams have very few weaknesses. Off-the-court, his teams exhibit a great deal of class. In 2012, they won the NAIA’s Champions of Character Team Award.
Shelley Jarrard (Westminster University)
I do not know her personally and have only met her in passing. However, I’ve been extremely impressed with the job that she does with her team. All they do offensively is play team basketball, execute at a high level and get wide open shots. On defense,they are prepared and play tough. They are not afraid to mix it up. She had 2 NCAA Division I and 2 Division II transfers on her roster so she certainly knows how to recruit. She also is smart and secure in who she is as a coach. This is evidenced by her luring long-time University of Utah head coach, Elaine Elliott out of retirement to be her assistant. Coach Jarrard seems to be very passionate about her players. You can tell by her interactions with her players that she has their backs. It is obvious by her player’s behaviors and reactions that they are willing to be coached by her and respect her. She was the 1989 Gatorade Player of the Year in Oklahoma before being an All-SEC First Team performer at Vanderbilt. She coached for many years at Kansas State and Utah before taking over last year at Westminster. In just two years as a head coach, she has already established herself as a top-notch leader. Ironically, in both of her years as a head coach, Westminster has lost in the National Tournament to the eventual National Champs (Oklahoma City and Westmont). Her career record now stands at 79-16 (.831).
Jeremy Lewis (Cumberland University)
After playing a brutal schedule last year and ending up 15-14, he went out and brought in 4 transfers. Lots of coaches do this; however, what made this situation different was that most of his starters were still around. He had 5 players this year coming off the bench that had been full-time or part-time starters at some point during their college careers. It is remarkable that he was able to get all of his players to buy into playing for the team and not worry about playing time. They went 33-3 this year and made it to the NAIA’s Fab-4 before losing to Lee University by 2. They played in the Mid-South Conference, which sent a total of 6 teams to the NAIA Tournament. He lost only 3 games all year…by a total of 6 points! For this special season, he was also named WBCA Region 5 Coach of the Year and is up for national honors, as well. He has a special connection with his players, knows how to motivate and can absolutely get his team to play defense.
Bethany Miller (Biola University)
I spent 10 days this year working side-by-side with her on the tournament committee. I have never been around a person that was more astute and perceptive while watching basketball than Bethany. There were a number of times that she picked up on things that teams were doing that I hadn’t picked up on….and they were teams that were in my own conference. She spent seven years as an assistant at Biola being mentored and prepared by Coach Ken Crawford to take over. She has a doctorate degree and could be making a lot of money in something other than small-college coaching, but she has a sincere love for the profession and really seems to desire the best for her players and team. Can she coach? This year she beat 3 ranked teams, while playing in the conference that included 2013 National Champs, Westmont. Last season, in her rookie season, she led Biola to the Elite 8 after pulling off two giant upsets along the way including one against #7 ranked Lee University. Watching her coach in last season’s tournament was impressive. Getting to know her at this year’s tournament helped me to understand how she achieved so much success at last year’s tournament.