Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file photo
Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file photo
For the first time since 2005, Fort Lewis College is in the market for a women’s basketball coach.
Mark Kellogg piloted Fort Lewis to new heights, including a run to the national title game in 2010, and now he’ll look to make over fellow Division II program Northwest Missouri State after accepting the Bearcats’ head coaching job, effective immediately.
Kellogg was quick to thank the Fort Lewis College community for its support and said his family was a priority in the decision-making process.
“It’s a good move for us as a family. ... Life is easier from a travel standpoint, which is good for my family,” he said.
“It’s the greatest ride I’ve ever had from a professional standpoint.”
Still, alerting his returning players to the move was far from easy.
“It was as brutal a conversation as I’ve ever had,” he said.
Katerina Garcia, a Durango High School alumnae and soon-to-be senior point guard at FLC, echoed the sentiment and said she supported Kellogg’s choice to move on.
She’s hoping that her fourth collegiate head coach – she had two at Southern Illinois before transferring – will maintain the up-tempo style of play the Skyhawks have become accustomed to.
“As a coach, you’ve got to look after your family and other aspects of life, and he did,” said Garcia, daughter of Alfonso and Yvette Garcia. “I’m definitely hoping for a similar style; I’m going to be quite upset if we don’t have a similar style.”
Kellogg, 36, said he’s also excited for the chance to recruit in an area with the major metro areas of Kansas City, Mo., Omaha, Neb., and Des Moines, Iowa, all within reasonable driving distance of Maryville, Mo.
Fort Lewis athletic director Gary Hunter said the search for Kellogg’s replacement will begin immediately.
Assitant athletic director Lynne Andrew will oversee the program’s daily operations until a new coach is found. Whether assitant coach Kristen Mattio will join Kellogg or pursue other options was not yet known.
“We will always be grateful for the winning tradition he has developed at FLC,” Hunter said in a news release. “We will begin immediately to search for a coach that will build on his legacy of excellence on the court and in the classroom.”
In seven years with the Skyhawks, Kellogg coached his teams to a 173-46 record, including a 116-23 mark in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play.
In 2009-10, Fort Lewis was 35-4, capturing the regular-season RMAC title and Central Region crown en route to an appearance in the national championship game in St. Joseph, Mo., just a stone’s throw from what will be his new home in Maryville, Mo.
Fort Lewis lost to the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association’s Emporia State in the championship.
The Skyhawks won three conference titles and two conference tournament titles under Kellogg’s watch and have appeared in five consecutive NCAA Tournaments, most recently bowing out to Metro State in the second round last month.
Kellogg was RMAC Coach of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and was the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Region VII Coach of the year in 2010 and 2011.
Kellogg’s teams also were in the WBCA Academic Top 25 Team Honor Roll from 2009-09 through 2010-11, a year in which they had the highest team grade-point average in all levels of women’s basketball.
“We’re in a more rural community where we have incredible fan support, and just his personality ... he really has a contagious personality,” Bearcats athletic director Wren Baker said. “I think he’ll be great with our fans.
“I think he’s the complete package.”
While financial factors certainly were a consideration, especially a cost-of-living index nearly 20 points below the national average, the new Bearcats’ coach expressed excitement at joining an athletic department that’s trended upwards in recent years.
The Bearcats are three-time national champions in football and were finalists every year from 2005-2009, while men’s basketball has made two elite eight appearances in 2002 and 2004 and qualified for the NCAA Tournament last year.
He’ll replace Gene Steinmeyer as the head coach at Northwest Missouri State.
In 13 seasons at the helm, Steinmeyer was 189-187 and took the Bearcats to three NCAA Tournaments, most recently in 2011, when the Bearcats captured the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association title and advanced to the final four before succumbing to Michigan Tech.
“Football’s rolling, basketball’s rolling, and I hope to sustain the level of success of the women’s basketball program,” Kellogg said.
In an odd twist, the job already had been offered to Northeastern Oklahoma State head coach Randy Gipson, who was announced as the head coach on March 26. Gipson backed out a day later.
“I started programs at ... Rogers State University, so for somebody who’s been doing this six years, I’ve had 13 coaching searches. ... I was really surprised when that happened, but I’m also a person who believes things happen for a reason,” Baker said.