Karius takes the Coyote women’s helm | Sports

VERMILLION — University of South Dakota athletic director David Herbster sat at a table in his home on Friday night, looking through slews of information on candidates to become the next women’s basketball coach at the University. USD.

When a friend texted him asking what he was up to, he sent back a photo of the stacks of papers, which included summaries of top candidates.

“He’s starting to come up with a few names: ‘And this one?’ ‘That one?’ I’m like, ‘How did you know that?’ “Herbster said when announcing Kayla Karius as the Coyote women’s basketball coach. “We go back and forth and back and forth. And just by texting he said, ” I know who you are going to hire”. You are going to hire Karius.

“So, actually, he probably knew me better than I knew where I was going. But he also knew before me that we were going to hire Kayla.

For Karius, the 11th coach in Coyote women’s basketball history, the decision to return to the program where she spent two years as an assistant from 2016 to 2018 was simple.

“It’s really an obvious opportunity for me, for my first head coaching job and to join a program that I already know so well, to come back to a city that I already know so well and that I recruited for a lot of players,” she said. “For us, as a family, to know Vermillion and to love him, and to come back with all the people who are here, we are thrilled.”

Karius has spent the past four years in other programs — three at the University of Wisconsin in his home state, last season at Drake. Although she learned a number of things along the way, two lessons stood out.

“Number one, know who you are,” she said. “I know what Vermillion looks like, what USD looks like and what you need to sell to young players. I like what USD is, what Vermillion is.

The second has to do with the identity of the team.

“You have to know who you are, talk about it, buy into it,” she said. “Some of the things that have worked here in the past are things that we will try to continue. We’re going to stick with the identity of a big uncompromising defense, and we’ll establish our offensive identity as we go along.

When Herbster interviewed Karius as part of the hiring process, it brought back memories of another former Coyote assistant who was hired as head coach at SHU: Leanne Williamson, whose volleyball team qualified for the NCAA Tournament last fall.

“Kayla came in with a lot of confidence and the ability to articulate her vision for the program,” he said. “When we hired Leann, I always saw her as an assistant coach. When we interviewed her, she blew us away with her ability to present her vision.

“It was the same with Kayla. When we sat down with her as the head training candidate, she had the same sense of confidence, the same feeling. We knew right away she had the factor” that” that would help him succeed.

SHU President Sheila Gestring felt it too.

“Without a doubt, Kayla Karius, ‘Coach K’, has definitely reached the top,” Gestring said. “That family person, she knows the character, she knows the community, she knows the X’s and the O’s, and she knows the kind of staff she wants to bring in to keep that culture going.”

Karius resumes a program that earned his first-ever appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2022. Four seniors, including three starters, have graduated from this team. Karius had helped sign those four seniors, along with returning player Allison Peplowski.

Karius also knew most of the other returning players.

“Yesterday (Sunday) evening I was able to spend time with the players,” she said. “What was cool for me was that only two of the 12 were players I hadn’t had at least one phone conversation with, either in USD or because I was still recruiting from the Midwest.”

The Coyotes’ other two returning starters – Maddie Krull and Kyah Watson – are currently listed in the transfer portal. Being in the portal allows them to explore their options, but allows them to switch back to USD, if they wish.

Along with getting to know his returning players and those who had committed to USD, Karius is focused on building a coaching staff.

“I want to put together a team of great people who will guide our players,” she said.

Follow @JCimburek on Twitter.

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