Carolyn Kieger leaving Marquette to coach Penn State women's basketball team
Marquette must replace the most successful women's basketball coach in school history.
Carolyn Kieger, after five seasons leading the Golden Eagles, has accepted the head coaching job at Penn State, MU announced on Wednesday.
Kieger was 99-64 with the Golden Eagles. She was the 2018 Big East co-coach of the year. MU won the conference tournament title in the 2016'-17 season, shared the league crown in 17-'18 and then won the Big East championship outright this season.
The 35-year-old Kieger was a standout point guard at MU from 2002-'06. She is still the program's all-time leader in assists.
"Carolyn did a phenomenal job," MU athletic director Bill Scholl said. "As today unfolded, we reminisced a little about her first year here and the progress that we made.
"We went from having a lot of work to do to a team that flirted with being a top-16 seed (in the NCAA Tournament) at the national level."
Kieger was hired by MU in May 2014 to replace her former coach Terri Mitchell.
The Golden Eagles were 23-37 in Kieger's first two seasons. They then won 20 or more games in three straight seasons, including a program-record 27 victories this season.
MU also cracked the top-10 in the national rankings in January for the first time.
Kieger was able to find success with her first recruiting class at MU. This season the Golden Eagles boasted five seniors who had scored 1,000 or more points in their careers. Guards Allazia Blockton and Natisha Hiedeman were back-to-back Big East players of the year.
But senior post player Erika Davenport was lost for the season in late February with a knee injury.
The Golden Eagles were able to reach the Big East championship game, but lost to DePaul at Wintrust Arena in Chicago. MU needed overtime to beat Rice in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, then the Golden Eagles fell to Texas A&M in the second round.
MU has never advanced to the Sweet 16 in program history.
The school said it will begin a national search for its next coach immediately.
"We certainly have a list of folks who are intriguing to us," Scholl said. "We're also hearing from others that are intrigued in our job."
The recent success of the MU program could make it an attractive opening.
"We are in a position, I think, to certainly take a serious look at current head coaches," Scholl said. "And that's not to rule out the possibility of an assistant coach."
This will be Scholl's first hire of a coach at MU since being hired in September 2014.
"You look for style of play," he said. "You look for success. You look for fit within Marquette's value system. You look for people who have a proven ability to build a culture that works on the floor and off the floor. Academic success.
"Those are all the kinds of pieces that you're looking for when you're looking to bring someone into your staff."
The Golden Eagles also have eight freshmen slated to join the team next season, including high-scoring guard Shemera Williams from Milwaukee Academy of Science.
Penn State fired Coquese Washington in March after a 209-169 record in 12 seasons. The Nittany Lions were 12-18 this season, including 5-13 in the Big Ten.