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Daniel taking women’s program to new heights

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Marshall women's basketball head coach Matt Daniel directs his players from the sidelines in the Charleston Capital Classic last season.

Marshall women's basketball head coach Matt Daniel directs his players from the sidelines in the Charleston Capital Classic last season.

Parthenon File Photo

Parthenon File Photo

Marshall women's basketball head coach Matt Daniel directs his players from the sidelines in the Charleston Capital Classic last season.

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Matt Daniel has reinvigorated the Marshall University women’s basketball program since becoming the head coach.

Before Daniel’s arrival in May 2012, the program had just six winning seasons since 2001.  The Herd has seen a steady increase in wins since his arrival and last season, the team took an even bigger step with the program’s first postseason win in the NCAA era with a first-round victory over Northern Kentucky University in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

Daniel said last season’s success is a step in the right direction, but he has bigger goals for his team.

“I think it shows real progress and strong momentum,” Daniel said.  “But that was also yesterday. And in my profession, it’s not what you’re measured on.  You’re measured on today rather than yesterday.”

“I think it makes Marshall look really good,” senior forward Leah Scott said.  “Not even just in athletics, but in academics and other stuff like that. It’s still a growing process and everybody has spots to grow in, so I think Marshall is doing a really good job in expanding.”

Daniel is no stranger to building a program.  He inherited a losing program when he became the head coach at the University of Central Arkansas, but quickly turned it into a winner during his stint as head coach from 2008-2012.

In his debut season, Daniel’s team finished with a 6-23 overall record.  However, the team went 21-8 in his second season as head coach. In year three, the team posted a 21-12 overall record and made an appearance in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.

In his final season at Central Arkansas, the team finished 24-7 overall and won the Southland Conference regular season championship while clinching a berth in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.

Daniel helped guide the Central Arkansas women’s basketball program from Division II to Division I during that stretch and he was named the Southland Conference Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2012.

Daniel’s ties to Marshall go back to when Billy Donovan was the head coach of the Herd men’s basketball team from 1994-1996.

“I was recruited to play at Marshall,” Daniel said.  “I was Billy Donovan’s first scholarship offer as a head coach. I turned it down and he ended up taking Jason (Williams), but that was kind of my tie here.”

During his first season as head coach of the Herd, the women’s team posted a 9-21 overall record.  His second season at Marshall saw a slight increase in wins as the team finished 11-20 overall.

However, in year three last season the Herd saw even more improvement as it finished 17-15 overall and earned a berth in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, where the team defeated Northern Kentucky 81-79 in the first round.

Daniel said his previous coaching experiences have helped prepare him for the task of turning around the Marshall women’s basketball program.

“I’ve seen basketball at a lot of different levels being a coach’s kid,” Daniel said. “I was a head coach before I got here and I was ready to be challenged and take a step up.”

Scott said the building process was tough at first, but the team has taken steps in the right direction.

“It was kind of rough at first, but we’ve grown,” Scott said.  “You just take different steps to different goals and it’s still growing as I’m here.”

Despite graduate losses from last season’s team, the Herd adds 10 new faces to this year’s team and hopes to continue the building process.

“We’re really young,” Daniel said.  “Ten new faces that didn’t play Division-I basketball last year so that’s always the hope. We have to handle whatever comes our way.”

The Herd is 2-0 this season, having defeated Morehead State University and Brescia University in the Morehead State Classic. The team’s next game is 6 p.m. Wednesday against the University of Rhode Island at the Cam Henderson Center.

Trace Johnson can be contacted at [email protected] 

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