Jan. 16, 2013
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — In 1984, St. Ambrose athletics director Jim Fox gambled on hiring a 24-year-old with no head coaching experience to lead the Bees women’s basketball program.
It didn’t take long for Lisa Bluder to make 30-win seasons an expectation for the NAIA institution located in Davenport, Iowa.
Fast-forward 29 years: With her next victory, Bluder becomes the 42nd coach in all divisions, and the 25th head coach with at least 10 seasons in Division I, to reach 600.
“It really is longevity,” a modest Bluder said. “I am so fortunate because of (associate head coach) Jan (Jensen) and (assistant coaches) Jenni (Fitzgerald) and Shannon (Gage) and the commitment that they have given me. That is what’s remarkable. That to me is the true story, that Jan and Jenni have been around for 21 years and they are every bit as important as I am in every single one of those victories.”
“It really is longevity. I am so fortunate because of (associate head coach) Jan (Jensen) and (assistant coaches) Jenni (Fitzgerald) and Shannon (Gage) and the commitment that they have given me. That is what’s remarkable. That to me is the true story, that Jan and Jenni have been around for 21 years and they are every bit as important as I am in every single one of those victories.”
UI head basketball coach
Bluder earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Northern Iowa in 1983, but her real desire was basketball. In her first year after college, she evaluated officials, did public address, worked camps, and even officiated. With her fiancé, David, living in the Quad-Cities, Bluder sent resumes to three local colleges — Augustana, Marycrest, and St. Ambrose.
Augustana and Marycrest didn’t bother sending a rejection letter to the experience-thin coach-in-waiting. Fox, on the other hand, was so impressed that he bumped the original annual salary offer of $2,400 to $2,500, and Bluder’s coaching career began.
“It was kind of a lucky situation that I ever even got into coaching,” Bluder said. “It was Jim Fox, the athletics director at St. Ambrose, who took a chance on me, and I’ll always be thankful for that.”
Bluder compiled a six-year record of 169-36 at St. Ambrose, and then moved to Drake, where she went 187-106 in 10 seasons. Now in her 13th year with the Hawkeyes, Bluder is 243-148 for a total of 599-290.
“I’ve been fortunate to be at three great places, all in the state of Iowa,” Bluder said. “I’m proud of the fact that I’ve spent my entire coaching career in the state of Iowa. St. Ambrose, Drake and now at the University of Iowa, it really is a dream come true. I’ve been here for 13 years, and I am still just as excited as I was that first year when I got here. I am still so excited to be able to be the Hawkeyes’ coach. It really is a dream.”
Bluder’s first victory was 88-77 against Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa; No. 600 could come Thursday on the road against Michigan State (14-2 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) in East Lansing, Mich.
“That’s a crazy number, she is in elite company,” UI sophomore guard Samantha Logic said. “We have to prepare like any other game, she would want us to do that. It’s a lot of wins for one coach in a career, but she recruits the right people in her system and gets everything to work out, and she deserves it.”
What the Hawkeyes are saying:
“It’s a great milestone for her, so we want to go out and win big for her on Thursday. If we can do that, everyone will be happy.”
— UI sophomore Bethany Doolittle
“Coach Bluder is a great coach. To be able to stand by her when she gets her 600th victory is going to be awesome. I know it’s special to her, a great milestone in her career. To be there with her when that happens is a great thing to celebrate.”
— UI senior Morgan Johnson
“That’s a lot of wins. Coach Bluder is a great coach and she deserves that. It goes to show in her numbers. That’s awesome for her.”
— UI senior Jaime Printy