As CMU’s Guevara retires, here’s a look at the state of MAC coaches (it’s good)

Guevara (1)

CMU’s Sue Guevara coached for a total of 39 years at seven different schools, including seven as head coach at Michigan and 12 as head coach at Central. (Photo from Central Michigan website.)

Central Michigan coach Sue Guevara, one of the MAC’s longest serving and most successful coaches, announced she was retiring last week.

Central had won three straight regular season MAC championships under Guevara. Her 2017-18 team was one of the most successful in league history, going 30-5 and reaching the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. In 12 years at CMU, Guevara went 216-151 and won four MAC championships and three MAC tournaments.

The timing of her retirement was unusual; she been in charge of summer practices and camps and was recruiting players as late as last month. But she said in a press release that retirement was something she had been thinking about since the end of last season. She just turned 65, by far the oldest of MAC women’s coaches.

Guevara’s recruiting had been outstanding in the last eight years or so. This year’s graduating class included MAC player of the year Reyna Frost and Presley Hudson, one of the best three-point shooters in league history. (Presley won the three-point shooting contest for women and men at this year’s NCAA tournament.) The 1917-18 MAC player of the year was Central’s Tinara Moore. In 2014, Chrystal Bradford was league player of the year and the No. 7 pick in the WNBA draft. That was the highest ever for a MAC player.

The new Central coach is Heather Oesterte, Guevara’s associate head coach for seven years and an assistant two years before that. Oesterle had been a player for Guevara when Guevara was head coach at Michigan in the early 2000s.

That’s obviously great for continuity in recruiting and system of play for Central Michigan. It’s no guarantee of success. Jennifer Roos was the top assistant to Curt Miller when Bowling Green dominated the MAC in the mid-2000s. Roos had two really good years, including a 30-5 season with one of the MAC’s best teams ever in 2013-14. Her teams never won more than 11 games after that, and she was fired after the 2017-18 season.

The only other time I can remember a MAC assistant or associate moving up was when Melissa Jackson replaced Jodi Kest at Akron after the 2017-18 season. Kest “retired”; she had won more games than any other Akron coach but went 9-21 her last two season. Kest  was an assistant at Division II Lynn University in Florida in 2018-19 and just became an assistant at Division I High Point University in North Carolina.

Jackson went 16-15 in her first season, but Akron was 7-11 in the MAC.

I spent some time comparing league coaches’  records. Here’s what I found:

MAC coaches’ records while in league

(Listed by overall winning percentage.)

  • BOB BOLDON, Ohio. 130-64 (.670). One overall MAC championship, one tournament title, three MAC East titles. One NCAA appearance, three WNIT bids (four wins). Starting seventh year.
  • TRICIA CULLOP, Toledo. 241-123 (.662). One MAC championship,  one MAC tournament title. four MAC West titles, one NCAA appearance, seven WNIT bids (WNIT title in 2011-11, 11 total WNIT wins). 13th year.
  • FELISHA LEGETTE-JACK, Buffalo. 142-85 (.626). Two MAC tournament championships, one MAC East title. Three NCAA tournament appearances (won three games and reached Sweet 16 in 2017-18), One WNIT bid. Eighth year.
  • LISA CARLSEN, Northern Illinois. 66-49 (.573). One WNIT appearance. Fifth year.
  • BRADY SALLEE, Ball State. 128-98 (.547). Six WNIT appearances. Ninth year.
  • TODD STARKEY, Kent State. 52-45 (.536). One MAC East title. Two WNIT appearances. Fourth year.
  • MELISSA JACKSON, Akron, 16-15 (.516), Second year.
  • SHANE CLIPFEL, Western Michigan. 80-79 (.503). One WNIT appearance. Eighth year.
  • FRED CASTRO, Eastern Michigan. 31-62 (.333). Fourth year.
  • ROBYN FRALICK, Bowling Green. 9-21 (.300). Second year.
  • HEATHER OESTERTE, Central Michigan. 0-0. First year.
  • DEUNNA HENDRIX, Miami. 0-0. First year.

GUEVARA’s .587 winning percentage had been third among current coaches. Her 12 year was second longest.

Coaches’ overall winning percentage (at current and previous schools) are quite similar. Biggest exception is BG’s Fralick at .824. She went 104-3 with a national championship and two other Final Four appearances at Division II Ashland. Hendrix’s record at High Point University was 125-93 (.573) with two WNIT appearances.

Jackson, Clipfell, Castro and Oesterte have been head coaches only in the MAC.

IT’S NO WONDER the league is the best its ever been. Eleven of 12 coaches have winning records. (That counts Guevara and includes Fralick’s and Hendrix’s overall records.)

Current coaches (including Guevara) have won 24 WNIT and five NCAA games (two by Guevara and three by Legette-Jack) while they were in the MAC.

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