The five-year head coach leaves by ‘mutual agreement’
Maren Walseth is out as the North Dakota State women’s basketball coach. Why? A lack of success. Correction, a lack of any success. In her five seasons as a head coach, her record was 40-106.
Of those 40 wins, only three came against Division I teams that finished the season with a winning record. Those were South Dakota in 2016-17 and both Oral Roberts and South Dakota State in her first campaign, with an inherited set of players, in 2014-15.
That just simply will not cut it at any level of basketball. There is also the fact that the program as a whole never seemed to be heading in the right direction in Walseth’s tenure.
In her first season, the Herd went 11-18. Not great by any means, but the first season for a coach usually is the toughest.
The problem is, following that season, Walseth’s teams never reached double-digit wins in any season. The program appeared to be taking two steps back and no step forward.
None of this is to suggest that Walseth has a lack of knowledge of the game of basketball. Walseth was a standout at Penn State in the late ’90s and was even selected in the third round of the WNBA draft in 2001.
Walseth also spent seven years as an assistant coach at Penn State before taking the head coaching job at NDSU. She was hired to shoe-horn the revalidation and rebuild of the program, but could not get it done.
This was Walseth’s first head coaching gig on any level, so of course there was going to be some bumps along the way, and rebuilds do not happen overnight.
However, there needs to be a vision or a plan in place to get the program back into relevance. College sports is and always has been about recruiting.
The pieces are in place for NDSU to do well in the recruiting game. For starters, the program won five national titles in the ’90s. Yes, the Bison were still playing in Division II back then, but banners are banners, and having a winning culture can be very appealing to incoming recruits.
There is also the glamorous $50 million Stanford Health Athletic Complex, a great place for any college hooper to spend their playing days.
The pieces are in place for NDSU to be a favorable destination for recruits, but the lack of success on the court further proves why a change was made. Of course recruiting is tough, but one can imagine its even tougher when players that are already within the program are leaving.
Holly Johnson was a three-year starter for the Bison before she was forced to sit out the 2015-16 season with a foot injury. Walseth made the, as she puts it, “coach’s decision” not to redshirt Johnson that year, which opened the door for Johnson to transfer to North Dakota for the 2016-17 season.
Reilly Jacobson was the Herd’s leading scorer for the Bison in the 2017-18 season before she transferred to Western Michigan. Fargo native Sarah Jacobson was “dismissed” from the team just weeks ago and is planning to transfer to Minnesota State Moorhead.
After all the losses, lack of growth, lack of recruiting and the now routine player departures, it is time for another fresh start.
It will be a grind of a process to return to relevance in the Summit League, let alone the national stage. The road ahead appears to be a tough one. That just makes it all the sweeter when the victories start pouring in.