Stiles thrilled with her new role at MSU

Meeting the new coaches

News-Leader, April 26, 2013
Written by Chris Basnett

Jackie Stiles returns to Missouri State: Jackie Stiles returns to Missouri State

So just how excited is Jackie Stiles to be back in Springfield as an assistant coach for the Missouri State women’s basketball team?

In a six-minute interview Friday with the News-Leader, the Lady Bears legend used the words “amazing” or “incredible” seven times.

“It’s been an absolute whirlwind, but it’s been a good crazy. I should be exhausted because I’ve probably slept two hours a night, but I’m so, so happy and I’m bouncing off the walls,” Stiles said. “And I know I’m probably driving the whole entire staff crazy, but I’m telling you, you can just feel the energy in the community and I’m just so happy to be back.”

Stiles’ return to her alma mater brought an end to a nine-month odyssey that saw the Lady Bear legend in July leave Springfield to take an assistant coaching job at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles — her first coaching position of any kind — and then interview for the women’s head coaching position at Drury this spring.

She was then hired last week to assist new Lady Bears coach Kellie Harper.

When she interviewed at Drury, she had not yet been offered a job at Missouri State, she said.

“I knew L.A. was going to be hard for me. Not working at LMU, but just L.A. itself, because I knew all my friends and family are all in the Midwest, and they really couldn’t get out there very often,” Stiles said. “So I knew eventually I had to be in the Midwest. So when the Drury job opened I thought, ‘Wow, that’s way too incredible of a job to not try and go after it.”

Stiles added that while she has great respect for Drury, the chance to coach at her alma mater was too good to pass up.

“When this opportunity happened I just had to walk away from that and say, ‘Hey, this is where I’m meant to be,’” Stiles said.

Stiles and fellow Lady Bear assistants Jennifer Sullivan and Jon Harper met the public Friday at a town hall meeting at JQH Arena. The gathering also served as an informational session for those interested in learning about the new ticketing plan for women’s basketball.

Head coach Kellie Harper and assistants took questions from the about 100 people gathered in main suite at JQH, and the new ticket plan was spelled out in a short video.

For Lady Bear fans, it was the first chance to see Stiles in her new role with the program. Many posed for pictures with and got autographs from the new coach.

“It is the best thing that ever happened. I’m so excited for the new staff,” said Carrie Hammit of Nixa. “I’ve never seen so many good things happening. I think the community in general is excited for Jackie coming back and for the new coaching staff.”

While the bulk of the attention was paid to Stiles, Sullivan and Jon Harper also introduced themselves to the public.

A Jonesboro, Ark., native, Sullivan spent last season as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator at Louisiana Lafayette. Sullivan played collegiately at Memphis from 2001-05, where she was a three-year starter.

Sullivan said she grew up idolizing both Harper and Stiles when they played at Tennessee and Missouri State, respectively.

“The opportunity to meet her and she knows my name, that was pretty awesome,” Sullivan said of meeting Kellie Harper for the first time. “Just visiting with her for an hour, it was like ‘I’m in. Whatever you need me to do I’m there and I’m ready.’

“Then after all that took place, she told me my other idol was here in the office with me and it’s just been incredible.”

Jon Harper has been an assistant under his wife for the past nine seasons, first at Western Carolina then at North Carolina State. He said the couple had time for little else besides coaching and recruiting the past couple weeks.

“I told somebody the other day, every time I leave the office, I come back and there’s something else on the desk. I’m like, ‘Stop. Quit. I can’t finish what’s already in here,’” Harper said with a laugh. “It’s just one of those things. Any time you make a move there’s just a lot going on. I want to push the easy button and be done with it and be here and settled. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.”

Harper said working with his wife has been beneficial for both.

“We’re fortunate to be able to do it because this is a different kind of thing. It’s not like it’a a 9-to-5 job,” Harper said. “When I go home and talk about it with her, she understands what I’m going through and the same thing on her end.”

The gathering was one of several the coaching staff attended this week. Included in those was a pair of 7 a.m. breakfasts for current season ticket holders Thursday and Friday that each drew about 200 fans.

“To come at 7 in the morning two mornings in a row when it’s been raining and to have huge attendance… they have twice as many people at a 7 a.m. breakfast as we had at games at LMU,” Stiles said. “Their excitement and their love for the program and for me, how can you not appreciate that?

“I know it’s meant to be,” Stiles continued. “This is where I’m supposed to be and I’m just so happy to be here.”