The University of Akron took a shot at ensuring that the women’s basketball program maintains the stability and success that it has enjoyed in recent years as it announced Tuesday that coach Jodi Kest signed a five-year contract extension.
Terms of the deal, which runs through the 2017-18 season, were not available.
“It’s a great day to be a Zip. I’m excited,” Kest said by phone. “I’m excited about the extension. I’m excited about the team. I love the team we have. Coming in, I loved the future of our program and I’m really excited to be here for the next five years.”
After the season was over, Director of Athletics Tom Wistrcill told the Beacon Journal that a new deal would likely be in the offing.
“Coach Kest has worked tirelessly for the past seven years to change the women’s basketball culture at Akron and establish a winning tradition,” Wistrcill said in a news release. “Following the most successful season in school history, we are proud to make this commitment to Jodi as she continues to build the program into one of the best in the Mid-American Conference.”
Last season made the decision that much easier as Kest, who will enter her eighth season this year, and the team led by Rachel Tecca, Sina King, Kacie Cassell and Hanna Luburgh appeared in the program’s first MAC Tournament championship game, won its first Mid-American Conference East Division title and broke more than 10 school records. The season culminated with an appearance in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Zips are likely to be favorites to repeat in the upcoming season.
“From Day One they believed that we did things the right way. They’ve been very patient with me and I am fully appreciative of that,” Kest said. “They gave me the years to turn this program around. Sometimes that’s not the way it is at some places. For me I can’t express how grateful I am that they gave me the years prior to this to get to where we are at today.”
And where they currently stand is a long way from where Kest, the school’s winningest coach, originally started, showing steady improvement each year. The seed they planted in the 2011-12 season grew into last season’s success. On a roll early in the 2011-12 campaign, a season-ending injury to Tecca derailed what could have been a huge year.
Kest played a key role in developing Tecca, last year’s MAC Player of the Year, King and Cassell. More importantly, she’s been able to get local talented players such as Tecca, who starred at Archbishop Hoban, and Kara Murphy before her, to stay home and play for the Zips. Her extension should continue to help with recruits locally and from outside of the area.
“I’m here for at least five more years,” she said. “Kids want to know when they’re going to a school that their coach is going to be there for them because they know our style and they know we play up tempo. They want to go play for a program that plays up tempo. All of that helps recruiting.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.