Clark-Heard heads to Colorado Springs, Ontario to represent USA Basketball

WKU head coach Michelle Clark-Heard fires up the team during a timeout in the second half of the team’s in-conference matchup against MTSU. WKU would go on to defeat conference rival MTSU in a game that went down to the final buzzer by a score of 63-60. Placing them at the top of the current Conference USA standings. (Luke Franke/Herald)

Jonah Phillips

This week WKU head coach Michelle Clark-Heard will head to Colorado Springs, Colorado to work as an assistant coach dealing with post-players for the 2015 U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team.

The honor came for Clark-Heard after being named Conference USA Coach of the Year and a Pat Summitt Trophy award finalist in 2015 when she led the Lady Toppers to a 30-5 overall mark (a record-setting mark in the C-USA), a C-USA regular season and tournament title, and the programs second consecutive birth in the NCAA tournament.

The USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee selects players and coaches for the 2015 U.S. Pan American Women’s Basketball Team while the United States Olympic Committee approves the coaching staff.

For the national team Clark-Heard will work under head coach Lisa Bluder of the University of Iowa and alongside assistant coach Scott Rueck of Oregon State University.

“I am very excited. This is something that you dream about as a coach to be able to go and represent your country,” Clark-Heard said. “I am just excited—excited to work with some amazing coaches and amazing players. Looking forward to it.”

With Clark-Heard traveling to Colorado Springs this week, she will spend Independence Day representing her country—the coaching staff tasked with getting a roster of 12 players prepared for competition taking place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada from July 16-20.

Of those 12 players, seven are proven national-caliber competitors with at least one gold medal under their belts with USA Basketball. 

“You can go down the list,” Clark-Heard said. “I am excited to have a chance to work with all of them. I will be in charge of the posts and working with them and getting a chance to see how they develop over this couple of weeks.”

The task of representing her country on the national level will see Clark-Heard absent for the first half of WKU’s recruiting season, leaving associate head coach Greg Collins and newcomer assistant coaches Melissa Kolbe and Katherine Graham responsible for ushering in a portion of the new Lady Topper squad.

“I am missing the first half of recruiting so we are going to make sure all the recruits know the reason why I am not going to be watching them is because I am coaching USA Basketball,” said Clark-Heard.

The heavy reliance on her associate head coach and new assistants to ensure the Lady Topper tradition would make some coaches nervous, but Clark-Heard sees the opportunity differently.

“You have to make sure you have great people around you that know your expectations—our players know that too.” said Clark-Heard. “(Our staff) has hit the ground running and I am excited about them—I am fortunate as a coach.”

With Clark-Heard confident in her staff’s ability in her temporary absence, she is looking forward to growing herself as a coach in ways the college game has not yet offered to her.

“It will be a great learning experience. I am looking forward to playing quarters since (WKU) will be doing that here, but also the chance to be in a situation that I haven’t been before,” Clark-Heard said. “I am going to soak in everything I can to try to learn everything I can.

“It is a huge learning opportunity. You get a chance to see how people do things in different ways,” Clark-Heard added. “There are so many different ways to run a system, but to coach with some of the best and see how they transition into different things or how they do things on defense, I am really excited about that.”

For the games, the USA women have been placed into Group A and will take on Brazil on July 16, Dominican Republic on July 17 and Puerto Rico on July 18 in the preliminary round. Competing in Group B will be Argentina, Canada, Cuba and Venezuela.

The top two teams from both groups will advance to the semifinals on July 19, with the semifinal winners competing for the gold medal on July 20.