By Patrick Cooley, Sports Editor
The University of Nebraska Omaha announced Saturday the first coaching hire of its Division I era.
Thirty-five year old Arizona assistant coach Chance Lindley was named head coach of the UNO women’s basketball team. Lindley replaces Patty Patton Shearer who resigned on March 2 due to personal reasons – 11 days prior to UNO’s decision to move to Division I athletics.
A Wichita, Kan., native, Lindley posted a 148-33 mark as a head coach at the high school and junior college levels in Kansas before becoming an Arizona assistant coach under head coach Niya Butts in 2008.
Lindley helped the Wildcats to a 21-12 record last season, the most wins for the program since 2004. The Wildcats finished fourth in the Pac-10, their highest finish since the 2004 season, and made it to the National Invitational Tournament. Their 103-95 first round NIT loss to Utah State was the program’s first postseason game since 2005.
At Arizona, Lindley was in charge of defensive game planning and in-game offensive and defensive strategy. He hopes to bring a similar balance of offense and defense to his new team.
“I will stress defense first, but offensively I love an up-tempo game,” Lindley said. “I love to push the ball, but it ultimately comes down to your personnel. You have to have a balance between what you want to do and what your personnel allows you to do.”
UNO finished the 2010-11 season at 8-18 under Patton Shearer. While the program has struggled recently, the Mavs return their top-five scorers next season. Senior-to-be Heather Pohl, who averaged 17.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last year, returns for the Mavs. Jamie Nash, who averaged 11.5 points and 4.6 assists, also returns.
Despite the Mavs’ recent woes and likely difficult transition into the Summit League, Lindley hopes his Midwest ties will help recruit Division I talent to UNO.
“Our focus will be the city of Omaha and Nebraska,” he said. “I feel like I have some ties and connections to coaches and players around the Midwest and so, in general, we will try to target players from that area.”
Prior to his three seasons at Arizona, Lindley led Barton County Community College to a school-record 34-4 mark and a fourth-place finish at the NJCAA Tournament. For his efforts, Lindley was named the 2007-08 NJCAA Division I District F Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year. He also won the Jayhawk West Coach of the Year and the KBCA Junior College Coach of the Year. In his two seasons as assistant and head coach at the central-Kansas school, the Cougars were 61-7 (.897).
UNO Director of Athletics Trev Alberts hopes Lindley’s experience will help UNO in its transition to the highest level of basketball competition.
“We had strong interest in this position from coaches around the nation, and there were many strong candidates,” Alberts said in an April 16 press release. “In the end, we were impressed by Chance’s energy and passion as well as his proven track record as a head coach. We think he will be a significant asset in our transition to Division I.”
Lindley also sang the praises of his new school.
“It comes down to a fit,” Lindley said. “I’m a Midwest guy and the leadership of the administration at UNO was so impressive. It just made sense.”
UNO Associate Athletic Director Josh White, who was in charge of the coaching search, cited Lindley’s experience and vision as deciding factors
“We are extremely excited to have Chance join the Maverick athletic department,” White said in an April 16 press release. “We feel that he has the personality that will fit well within our athletic department and that he is someone whose aspirations matched ours. We think his Midwest roots and strong recruiting connections in the region will enable him to bring top-flight players to UNO.”
Lindley, who is still in Arizona, will move to Omaha next week when he will begin meeting with his new team.