Kelly cites desire to move near family as driving force behind resignation
After nine years and a program-record 117 victories, NAU women’s basketball coach Laurie Kelly resigned this past week after accepting the head coaching position at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.
Kelly’s departure comes on the heels of a 9-20 record, including a 4-12 record in the Big Sky Conference, which resulted in an eight place finish. The results made it five consecutive seasons with sub-.500 records; the Lumberjacks failed to reach the conference tournament for a third straight year.
“I have had such a great time here in my nine years and we have had great runs,” Kelly said. “I met with the team and it was emotional for all of us. I’m going to still be there for all of those players that I recruited, I have a relationship with them that goes beyond the court.”
The decision came as a result of Kelly’s desire to spend more time with her children and give them the chance to live closer to the rest of their family.
“This is a tough gig that takes a lot of hours and lots of time,” Kelly said. “I’ve had a husband that has committed nine years of his life raising my children because I haven’t been around very much; and now we get to do it a little bit more as partners.”
Kelly said she had been thinking about trying to get back to Minnesota for a while, but some family health issues spurred her to make the move closer to family.
“They are an hour away, they are going to drive over and sit in the stands watching me coach,” Kelly said. “For me, obviously financially I made a decision to take a lesser school job with less pay and have more of a personal life.”
The move will result in another new face for an NAU Athletic program currently in transition. Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Lisa Campos was hired March 30 to replace outgoing athletic director Jim Fallis. Jack Murphy was hired April 12 to take over as the head men’s basketball coach for Dave Brown, who finished out the season following former head coach Mike Adras’ mid-December resignation. And on April 2 Rich Scangarello and Jeff Lewis were hired as the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coaches respectively, of the NAU football team.
“There are a lot of great changes at NAU and I will always be a fan,” Kelly said. “I think Coach Murphy is going to do a great job and bring a lot of energy to the program. I am sad I won’t be here to see that.”
However, Kelly said the changes within the department had nothing to do with decision.
“I wasn’t looking for leverage to get more money; I wasn’t looking for leverage to get more years on my contract,” Kelly said. “If they gave me more money and said, ‘we’re going to give you three more years,’ I still would be going to Minnesota.”
Prior to her coaching career, Kelly completed a storied playing career at the University of St. Thomas (Minn.). While at St. Thomas, who plays in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) with Gustavus, Kelly was awarded the National Player of the Year by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
The departure to Gustavus, an NCAA Division III school, returns Kelly to her home state and a conference she is familiar with.
“(Mike Durbin), the coach at St. Bens (College of Saint Benedict), is the coach from when I played there,” Kelly said. “It’s the league I played in; it’s where my whole career started. My whole college experience started in the MIAC.”
Kelly still holds many MIAC records, including career points scored (1804), scoring average (22.4), field goals made (717), field goal percentage (62.5%) and rebounds (837).
Gustavus’ previous head coach, Mickey Haller, resigned on March 12 citing personal and family reasons. Haller had led her team to a program record 226 wins over a 12-year span. Gustavus finished this past season with a 20-7 record, including 17-5 in conference, for a second place finish in the MIAC.
The Lumberjacks lost seniors Caty Huntington and Katie Pratt from this past season’s team. Among the returners is Amy Patton, who is currently 240 points shy of the school’s record, and Amanda Frost, who tied for tenth in school history with 45 3-pointers made in her first season as a Lumberjack.
Campos said that the search for Kelly’s replacement would begin immediately.
“I’m an NAU fan. I’m so excited for what they could do next year and I feel confident in the players that I have left here,” Kelly said. “When I left Binghamton to come to NAU, my assistant coach got the job, that team finished second in the league and he was coach of the year. I knew I left that program in a very good position and I believe I’ve done the same thing here at NAU.”