Column: Ruley mulls return to coachingThe former players were showing some of their old moves in a North Dakota State women’s alumni basketball game earlier this winter. Seeing the need to put some personality into the event, Amy Ruley grabbed the Bison Sports Arena microphone and did a play-by-play of sorts.
By: Jeff Kolpack, The Dickinson Press
The former players were showing some of their old moves in a North Dakota State women’s alumni basketball game earlier this winter. Seeing the need to put some personality into the event, Amy Ruley grabbed the Bison Sports Arena microphone and did a play-by-play of sorts.
There was plenty of sarcasm and humor. The former Bison head coach got to know those players like her own family and it was obvious what they meant to her. It was obvious what the game means to her.
Those were the days. Five NCAA Division II national championships and jam-packed crowds. The Bison may be a Division I team these days but it may be awhile before any NDSU team approaches the talent of the 1995 and 1996 national title teams.
Ruley was the engine. This week, she hinted to a newspaper near her hometown of Lowell, Ind., that there may be some gas left in her coaching tank.
To those of us who covered her teams for a decade, that comes as no surprise.
“No, not at all,” said NDSU women’s athletic director Lynn Dorn. “I’m not surprised at all. I think she’s a coach at heart.”
She’ll always be a coach at heart. And it may be just a matter of time before she returns to the sideline.
She spent 29 years there as the Bison head coach, her first full-time job out of Purdue University. She resigned after last season and took a position within the NDSU athletic department as a fundraiser. She’s currently working that gig in Arizona and couldn’t be reached for comment.
But she told The Times of Northwest Indiana “If it was the right job, I’m sure I would certainly be interested in it. I think this year I learned a lot being in a different role. Right now, I think I have the right job, but I think I’d be prepared to coach in a little more high-profile league because of what I’ve learned.”
She’s certainly young enough at just a couple shades over 50 and would be the perfect fix for a program in need of some stability. It’s questionable whether a Big Ten or a Big 12 conference school would come at her.
She had her chance in the 1990s at the Purdue job, but declined it. But she is a Hall of Fame coach and somebody who is well known in the women’s basketball world.
Last year was the right time for Ruley to leave the Bison job. NDSU was getting consistently beat on the recruiting trail by South Dakota State and North Dakota and although the overall record was always good, the crowds were dwindling and the energy in the program wasn’t the same.
But time away from something has a way of recharging people.
“She certainly misses the game,” Dorn said. “And she’s good at it.”
When you’re out of the game for a year, it’s tough to come back in a good program. It’s tough to sell the boosters on a coach who hasn’t worked the Xs and Os in a year.
As a fundraiser, there isn’t much exposure to a bevy of people like you have as a coach. It’s you selling the message to older people and hoping they write a big check. It’s not you turning freshmen girls into young women ready for the outside world and the gratifying feeling that you helped them get there.
Some coaches can put it behind them and move on to something else. Erv Inniger was successful going from the head men’s coaching job at NDSU to being a huge part of NDSU’s Division I move as a development director.
But he also wasn’t as successful as a head coach for as long as Ruley was. To people that know her, it’s not “if” she gets back into the game. It’s “when.”
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