Women's Basketball Coach Laurie Kelly Leaves for New Post
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Northern Arizona head women's basketball coach Laurie Kelly has resigned to take the head coaching position at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.
Kelly leaves NAU after nine seasons as the longest tenured and winningest coach in program history, having won 117 games and the 2006 Big Sky Championship to take NAU to its only NCAA Tournament. Former Gustavus Adolphus coach Mickey Haller resigned in March after 12 seasons as the school's all-time leader in coaching victories with 226.
"I want to thank President Haeger, (Athletic Director) Jim Fallis, my coaching staff, players, boosters and the NAU community for helping to make the past nine years so memorable.," said Kelly. "I leave NAU with a heavy heart but am also excited about a new opportunity back in Minnesota. Having all of my family there, this provides me an opportunity to stay in coaching but to also have my children grow up with their relatives around them. There is a bright future ahead for NAU athletics and I will always be a Lumberjack fan. I wish all of my coaching colleagues continued success and thank them for their friendship and support."
Haeger wished Kelly success in her new role. "She brought us some great seasons while consistently supporting academic performance," Haeger said. "NAU appreciates her contributions to the program."
A native of Rochester, Minn., Kelly attended the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. as an undergraduate and earned her master's degree from Minnesota State-Mankato. She came to NAU in 2003 after serving five seasons as the head coach at Binghamton University, helping the Bearcats transition from Division-II to Division-I. She guided NAU to three winning seasons during her first-four years in Flagstaff including two 20-win seasons. The 2005-06 team tied the program record with 22 wins, winning three games in the Big Sky Championship and defeating Weber State in the title game to advance to the only NCAA tournament in program history.
Fallis, who was named NAU Athletic Director following Kelly's first season with the Lumberjacks, also commented on the impact that Kelly has had on the NAU community during her nine years in Flagstaff.
"I want to wish Laurie the best in her future endeavors; going home is always special and so it is only fitting that someone special, like Laurie, gets to experience that feeling," he said. "Laurie has been a wonderful role model for our female student athletes and a great ambassador for NAU, not only in Flagstaff but in the entire state of Arizona. Many of our basketball alumni that have come to know her will miss having her here but she has built a great foundation of connecting with them and I know NAU will benefit from those relationships for years to come. Having Laurie, with her NCAA tournament experience as coach, will serve Gustavus Adolphus well and position them for competitive success in the future. I know I speak on behalf of the entire Lumberjack family when I say, 'Thank you for your service and you will be missed.'"
Kelly tutored several of the most prolific players in program history during her tenure, including 1,000 point scorers Alyssa Wahl, Sade Cunningham, Lacy Tolbert, Kim Winkfield, Megan Porter, and current junior guard Amy Patton. She had two players (Wahl and Patton) named Big Sky Freshman of the Year and two players (Nicky Eason and Vickie Toney) earn Big Sky Newcomer of the Year honors, while Laura Dinkins earned a Defensive Player of the Year award as a player and spent the last two seasons as an Assistant Coach on Kelly's staff. NAU had 14 players earn All-Big Sky honors under Kelly, who guided the Lumberjacks to six Big Sky Championship appearances and recorded the most postseason wins in program history. Her players also earned 57 Academic All-Big Sky honors during her nine-year tenure.
The search for a replacement will begin immediately, according to Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Lisa Campos.
"We will look to build on the program that Laurie leaves behind," said Campos, who will start full time on May 7. "I look forward to the national search and finding a new leader for our women's basketball program."