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Russell resigns as head coach, team looks to move forward
Craig Hall
Antelope Staff
Photo by A Sanam Bhaila
Coach Carol Russel explains the strategy during a time out. Russel's coaching will no longer be aimed at Loper basketball players as she resigned earlier this year.

On March 5 Carol Russell stepped down as head coach of the UNK women’s basketball team.  The official announcement came from UNK athletic director Jon McBride.

“We appreciate Carol’s energy and efforts on behalf of the UNK athletic department.  She ran an NCAA compliant program and brought in student-athletes who were successful on and off the court,” McBride said.  “We wish Carol and her family well.”  

Russell had coached the Lopers the past eight seasons to a 163-79 record.  During her tenure in Kearney, Russell led the Lopers to two RMAC conference titles and five NCAA tournament appearances.

Russell said, “This is a good time to step aside to allow a better transition for a replacement for the women’s basketball program here at UNK that will insure continuing the success it has had over the past several years.”  

Russell’s resignation came after a season in which UNK posted a record of 9-18.  The Lopers used a strong conference push to qualify for the RMAC tournament where they were ousted in the first round by Colorado Christian University, falling to the Cougars for the third time this season.  A part of the team’s struggles this year was the lack of experience as the 11-woman roster fielded only one senior and one junior.

To start the process of hiring a new head coach, a seven-member search committee was assembled led by senior administrator Jamie Lundgren.  This committee is seeking to narrow the applicant pool down to a number so that they can conduct interviews through phone and/or on campus.  The committee will select from a pool of about 60 applicants who applied in about a week’s time.

Certain criteria has also been set up by the committee to evaluate the applicants.  They are looking at the background of the coaches, where they have coached, whether at the high school or college level.  Although they have set guidelines, they aren’t eliminating options because they are looking for a certain style of coach.  

McBride says knowledge of the UNK program is important in hiring a coach, though. “The familiarity with the region and Nebraska is important, and I think that is a positive for anyone that has that on their resume,” said McBride.  

The committee has set a goal to have a new head coach by April 15. Candidates will be on campus for interviews later this week.

“It was time for a change, and we are looking for a positive leadership style and to continue the success of the program,” McBride said.

Since Russell’s resignation the team has started individual workouts and team weight lifting for the spring.  According to assistant coach Fredrika Yalden, this team has shown a very resilient attitude after everything that has transpired.

“These girls are excited about change and the individual opportunities that will arise from the change, so they are really working hard during individual (workouts)… they are resilient, and they are getting it done,” Yalden said

Always a huge part of a coaching change is the affect it has on recruiting.  UNK, signed five high school seniors in the early signing period and is in constant contact with these recruits.  Assistant coaches are letting these commits know they are still important to the program.

"We are reminding them that we saw something special in them, and that hasn’t changed.  It’s still a Division II basketball athlete that we are excited about no matter who the coach is,” Yalden said.

As for the current members of the team many will be focusing on certain parts of their games that they need to improve.  Most players will continue their lifting program that have already started this summer and will also start conditioning drills and sprints that the team will follow.  After school ends it’s not just a straight break, the ladies will be back in Kearney shortly after leaving.

“In the month of June we will all be back here working camps as well, so we will try to get some pick up games going when we can,” junior forward Megan Becker said.

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