The NMU women’s basketball team announced the addition of former Wildcat, Mariah Dunham, to the coaching staff for the 2014 season. Dunham said NMU was an offer she couldn’t turn down.
“When I got the news that I could come back, it was truly amazing,” Dunham said. “Not a lot of coaches get a chance to come back to their alma mater and coach. I wasn’t sure I’d even be in the U.P. ever again, so this was an opportunity of a lifetime I had to take.”
The move came after former assistant coach, Kirsten Rogers, accepted the position of head coach of the LSSU women’s basketball team this past offseason.
NMU head coach Troy Mattson said the basketball department is proud of Rogers’ accomplishment.
“It’s a really great opportunity for Kirsten that we’re all excited about,” Mattson said. “It’s not too often an assistant coach gets opportunity to be a head coach at any level, unless you’re already in that program, so for her to step over to LSSU and take the head job while continuing her professional career is great.”
Dunham spent the 2013-14 season as the assistant coach of LSSU’s women’s basketball team. She played one year at NMU during the 2009-10 season, where she led the ’Cats in scoring, averaging 14.1 points per game and 5.2 rebounds a game. The Wildcats were 22-10 that season, and reached the GLIAC Championship as well as the second round of the NCAA Division II Women’s basketball tournament.
Senior guard Alyssa Colla said it will be beneficial to have a younger coach on the staff.
“It’s always great having someone who just finished playing college basketball, especially with her because she just left this program not too long ago and knows what it’s about,” Colla said. “She’ll work well with Mattson, and knows what it’s like to play under him. She brought a similar winning environment here that we want to continue, and she knows what it takes to get things done around here, so she’ll really be a great fit with all of us.”
Dunham is a native of Watertown, Wis. and began her college career with the University of Wisconsin Badgers, where she played from 2006-09. In her three seasons as a Badger, Dunham scored 600 points and put up 349 rebounds before transferring to NMU.
Dunham said she attributes her career success to her time as a Wildcat.
“I always tell everybody I learned more in my one year here at NMU than I did in my three years at Wisconsin,” Dunham said. “From interaction between coaches and players along with player development, it’s a great basketball team. I’ll bring everything I had at LSSU to NMU, and everything I know came from coach Mattson. It’s amazing what he was able to do for me as a player, and I’ll continue to teach that style as a coach.”
In the 2013 season, the Wildcats finished with a 17-5 GLIAC record, 22-8 overall, finishing second in the conference and winning the GLIAC tournament. The ’Cats reached the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament, but fell to Quincy University in overtime in the opening round of the Midwest Regionals.
Dunham said the team’s work ethic has them poised for another successful season.
“Everyone’s saying the environment hasn’t been this good in a long time,” Dunham said. “I think the success the girls had last year has turned some heads in the community, which is well deserving. These players work hard, show up before each practice and stay after. This is what you work for, and I think we have some hard, dedicated workers here, and that’s what’s bringing the success to this team again.”
The ’Cats begin play in an exhibition match Sunday, Nov. 2 at Butler University.