Barry McNamara  |  Published November 09, 2023

Tipping Off a New Era

Fighting Scots coach Michelle DeCoud stressing growth as she prepares for her first game in charge of women’s basketball team.


TIGHT-KNIT GROUP: That's what Michelle DeCoud has called her first team, and this photo would... TIGHT-KNIT GROUP: That's what Michelle DeCoud has called her first team, and this photo would seem to prove her point. Pictured in the front row are, from left, Ashley Jones, Courtney Farwell, Olivia Dinges, Kiersten Cox and Ella Goodrich. In the second row are, from left, Kynlee Stearns, Lauren Millhiser, Jadyn Mitchell, and Taj Hanserd. in the third row are Averi Rangel, Allison Hoy and Madison Finch. On top is Madison Heisch.MONMOUTH, Ill. – It’s fair to say that Monmouth College women’s basketball coach Michelle DeCoud and her team are figuring out some new things together.

This is DeCoud’s first year in charge of a college basketball team, and her first starting lineup will feature four sophomores. No player on the squad – including fifth-year senior Jadyn Mitchell – has been a full-time collegiate starter. Mitchell comes the closest, as she started the Fighting Scots’ first nine games last season before an injury sidelined her for the rest of the campaign.

“Last year, there were a lot of seniors with really big roles,” said DeCoud, who was an assistant coach at Hastings College in Nebraska before coming to Monmouth. “So this year’s group is getting used to playing with each other and seeing how they mesh together.”

MICHELLE DECOUD: The first-year Fighting Scots coach was a three-time All-American player at the ... MICHELLE DECOUD: The first-year Fighting Scots coach was a three-time All-American player at the University of Dallas.For the past few weeks, DeCoud has been busy preparing the Scots for their season opener against Coe College at 4 p.m. Nov. 11 in Glennie Gymnasium.

“We’ve got a lot of growth ahead of us,” she said. “We’re very young, so I’m just stressing to them that we have room to grow together as a team. I also want them to focus on the intensity and passion they bring to the game.”

Her coaching philosophy

The latter point of emphasis comes straight from her own experience as a player, right down to the accent of the voice that preached it.

“My very first coach as a club player in Colorado was Gary Long,” said DeCoud. “Coach Long was all about being aggressive and giving 100% out on the court – give everything you have on every play. So it was all about effort and intensity. That coach’s voice in my head is still his, and it sometimes comes with that Texas drawl he has.”

“Coach Long was all about being aggressive and giving 100% out on the court – give everything you have on every play. So it was all about effort and intensity. That coach’s voice in my head is still his.” – Michelle DeCoud

DeCoud had a soccer background in Nevada before moving to Colorado and joining Long’s team.

“I didn’t grow up around the game like most coaches, but I fell in love with it quick,” she said.

Another portion of her basketball philosophy was developed playing for – and coaching alongside – Jina Douglas. DeCoud played for Douglas at the University of Dallas, where she was a three-time Division III All-American (scoring 1,333 career points to go with 842 rebounds and 134 blocks – which would rank fourth, third and first in Scots history), then was on Douglas’ staff at Hastings.

“Coach Douglas – she was Coach Johansen when I played for her – was the strategy part of the game for me,” said DeCoud. “I learned about the ‘why’ of the game from her.”

A third influence on DeCoud’s coaching comes from Duke University women’s basketball coach Kara Lawson.

“She’s my model on the leadership side,” said DeCoud. “She’s given a couple of really good speeches. She’s not just about leading the team in basketball – what she says applies off the court, as well. The team already knows that I like her and that I’m going to use some of her stuff.”

One of those speeches contains the quotation “Handle hard better” and has more than 800,000 views on YouTube.

A sneak peek at the Scots

There might be some hard times to handle at first – the growth DeCoud mentioned could include growing pains.

JADYN MITCHELL: The senior guard started Monmouth's first nine games a year ago before losing... JADYN MITCHELL: The senior guard started Monmouth's first nine games a year ago before losing the rest of the season to injury.Mitchell, the team’s starter at the 2, is a veteran of 2-1/2 college seasons (she lost her 2020-21 campaign to COVID), but the other four projected players in the opening lineup started between 0 and 16 games in their only college season. That includes Ashley Jones (6.5 points per game) at the 3, 5-foot-9 Ella Goodrich (2.4) at the 4, Madison Heisch (1.4) at the point and 5-9 Kiersten Cox (1.2) at center. Jones, Goodrich and Heisch started 16, 14 and 11 games, respectively, a year ago.

In all, the Scots need to replace 68.6% of their scoring from last season, when the team was 10-15 overall and 6-10 in the Midwest Conference.

“We share the ball well,” said DeCoud of how the Scots have looked in the early going. “It’s a different offense than what they used to run. It gets the ball into a lot of people’s hands.”

DeCoud and assistant coach Jim Cole got a look at the team at a pair of scrimmages against Spoon River College and Black Hawk College.

“We definitely learned a lot, seeing which players were going to step up when we were playing a game against someone other than ourselves,” she said. “We’re learning a lot about each other every day, which is fun, because it keeps everything fresh.”

“We share the ball well. It’s a different offense than what they used to run. It gets the ball into a lot of people’s hands.” Michelle DeCoud

They may be learning plenty of new things on the court, but DeCoud also said a familiarity from last season has carried over.

“They’re so tight off the court,” said DeCoud. “They have a lot of personality, and they can bring some levity to our practices, but they also can be intense when they need to be.”

Other Scots who could be important contributors this season include 5-10 freshman forward Danielle Beach, who joined the team late after topping the Monmouth women’s soccer team with nine goals and nine assists, and sophomore point guard Kynlee Stearns, who is working her way back from an ACL injury and will return to practicing without restrictions “any day now.”

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