Sports & Recreation / Winter 2018

New coach means a new era for women’s basketball

“If we can get people out to watch us just one time, they’ll come back,” says new women’s basketball head coach Jim Turgeon. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Jim Turgeon admits that men’s basketball programs usually get most of the attention at universities. But for him, there’s nothing more exciting than women’s basketball.

“I think [on the women’s side] the game is played the way it’s supposed to be: below the rim,” says the new head coach of DU’s women’s basketball team. “There’s a lot of good ball movement, people movement, a lot of good shooting. In my opinion, a lot of men’s basketball now has turned into the biggest and strongest team wins. It’s pure game at the women’s level, and I just love it.”

And Turgeon wants University of Denver fans to love it, too.

“If they come and watch us, I think they’ll come back and watch us again. Because the fans will appreciate how hard [the Pioneers] play, how selfless they play and the skill level of the game they play,” he says. “If we can get people out to watch us just one time, they’ll come back.”

Part of his plan involves moving most of the women’s games from Magness Arena into the Ritchie Center’s smaller Hamilton Gymnasium in an effort to pack the stadium and build momentum.

“What I told the team is, ‘Let’s start winning 18 to 20 games a year, and let’s start selling out Hamilton and really create an atmosphere where maybe we beat somebody that we’re not supposed to, and then maybe we move back into Magness.’” He also is meeting with student organizations on campus in an effort to build more interest in the team.

Before being hired in March as the squad’s 10th head coach, Turgeon spent two years at Colorado State University-Pueblo, amassing a 54-10 record for an .843 winning percentage — the highest by any coach in school history. Under his watch, the ThunderWolves won their first regular-season Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship since the 1987–88 season, as well as their first-ever Division II regular-season title. Prior to CSU-Pueblo, Turgeon coached at Iowa Western Community College and Dodge City Community College.

“Jim’s win-loss record is spectacular, and he has always done it with great integrity and class,” says Peg Bradley-Doppes, vice chancellor for athletics and recreation. “He has overachieved everywhere he has been.”

That’s no surprise from a guy who has basketball in his blood. Turgeon grew up in Topeka, Kan., where the sport is a big deal. His dad played basketball at Creighton and coached at the high school level, and his brother coaches the men’s team at the University of Maryland.

“It’s been a part of my life since I was 6 years old,” Turgeon says. “I was one of those unique people in life who knew at 12 years old what they wanted to do in life. I knew I wanted to be a coach. And that never went away. I started coaching when I was 21 years old. I got a young start and have been doing it ever since. I feel very lucky to get to do what I do and have an impact on young people’s lives.”

Turgeon says though “everything is in place” for a winning season for the Pioneers, his goals for the team go beyond a strong win-loss record.

Instead, he wants DU fans to watch the games this year and see “a noticeable difference in how we play. And what I mean by that is how hard we play, how well we play together and just how we execute our offense,” he says.

“I want to improve over last year. If we improve day by day, week by week, month by month, and then season by season — that’s how you build a program. Maybe three years, four years down the line, we have a women’s basketball program to be really proud of.”


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