New women’s basketball coach bound for PSU

Last week Portland State announced that Sherri Murrell had been fired as the head coach of women’s basketball.

With the 2014–15 season almost over, the women’s team had posted a 3–23 record overall, and a 1–14 record in the Big Sky conference, earning them last place.

“It had become clear to me that there was a disconnect between Coach Murrell and the team,” PSU Athletic Director Mark Rountree said. “That’s just a result of a couple of tough seasons. The change was needed to give the girls on the team a little hope for the remainder of this season, and it gives me an opportunity to go ahead and bring in a new coach to build a better future for the basketball program.”

The Vikings had lost nine straight games leading up to Murrell’s firing.

“We just weren’t able to put together wins,” Rountree said. “It was surprising to me that we were struggling this much, and that was one of the reasons I made the change.”

Taking over for Murrell will be assistant coach Jennifer Mountain. She will serve as an interim coach for the last five games of the season. This is Mountain’s first year as a part of the PSU staff. She has previous experience as a head coach at Santa Clara, where she finished with a 56–127 record in six seasons.

Murrell, who coached at PSU for the last eight seasons, finished with a record of 121–119. Her career at PSU included a Big Sky coach of the year award and a berth to the NCAA tournament. But some of the biggest news about Murrell was that she was the only openly gay coach in Division I women’s basketball.

“I have nothing but the utmost respect for Coach Murrell,” Rountree said. “She is a person of integrity and has a lot of passion for [PSU].”

The success that Murrell saw earlier in her stint at PSU was not repeated. Over the last few years, PSU women’s basketball has fallen out of contention in the Big Sky. In the last three seasons, the women have won a combined 13 conference games. In the 2010-11 season, Murrell and her squad won 12 games in conference.

Rountree, who just started as the Vikings athletic director last month, made this his first big coaching decision in his career at PSU.

“It was a tough decision,” Rountree said. “Nobody gets in this business to make coaching changes, especially with some games left in the season. It was a difficult decision, but I felt it was one that needed to be made so we could move forward.”

Murrell joins quite a long list of coaches and other members of the PSU athletic department that have been let go during the 2014–15 season. Unlike former head football coach Nigel Burton, Murrell was on the last year of her contract. The Vikings will continue to pay her for this season, but will not owe her after that, which will allow Rountree to conduct a search for a new head coach.

Under an interim coach, the Vikings next game is Feb. 28 against Sacramento State in Sacramento, California.