Washington State Head Women's Basketball Coach Sherri Murrell enters her fifth season at the helm of a program that only continues to improve under her direction.
The 2005-06 Cougars won eight games, the most wins since the 2000-01 campaign (11), and opened the season with an impressive 6-2 record in non-conference play.
Another indication of the Cougars progression under Murrell's leadership the increasing number of competitive games WSU is involved in, especially in the last two seasons. The Cougars were involved in 17 games decided by six points or fewer over the last two seasons, doubling the number of those decisions in the previous two seasons combined (eight).
The Cougars also made significant progress closing the scoring gap in games each year culminating in an average scoring margin that was in single digits in 2005 and continued to decrease in 2006.
The stat sheet was not the only area where the program improved as attendance at WSU home games has increased over 86 percent since Murrell's arrival in 2002.
Murrell begins the 2006-07 campaign continuing her work on the task set before her - rebuild and win. This rebuilding process was something that Murrell was ready to undertake when she arrived on the Palouse in 2002.
"I love challenges," Murrell said on the day of her hiring. "I look forward to this as an adventure. It is something that I am not shy about and I am not going to back down from."
It was a challenge Murrell was confident about taking on due to what WSU already had in place.
"When you are looking at positions, one of the most important things to look at is what is there to recruit players," Murrell said. "I saw the abundant resources here from academics, athletics, all the way to the coaches and administrators. With all these resources available, I feel like the kids who are coming in - combined with those that are here - will put this program on the map in Washington, the West Coast and the Pac-10.
"Those things are in place," Murrell continued. "That's probably the most important consideration for me to look at and why I accepted the job."
Murrell has already taken advantage of those resources and will welcome a 2006-07 recruiting class ranked 39th by the Blue Star Report.
Murrell's first recruit to WSU, Bianca McCall, earned 2003 & 2004 All-Pacific-10 Conference women's basketball honorable mention selection. During her career, McCall recorded 37 double-digit scoring games and 10 double-doubles in points and rebounds.
In 2005, Kate Benz became the first Cougar in program history to lead the Pac-10 Conference in rebounding (9.1/game) as a sophomore and repeated the feat in her junior season. Benz also garnered Pac-10 Player of the Week honors last season, the first such recognition in nine years for a Cougar player. Benz earned her second all-conference honorable mention nod in 2006 as well a CoSIDA District VIII Academic first team and an All-Pac-10 Academic first team selection in 2005.
The 2005-06 season was noteworthy for two of Murrell's recruits as freshmen Amanda DuRocher and Katie Appleton shined from beyond the arc finishing seventh and eighth in the Pac-10 conference in 3-point field goals made respectively. The duo combined for 100 treys in 2005-06 (50 each) to set the freshman standard for 3-pointers made.
Murrell also recruited Adriane Ferguson, who came to the Palouse from Spokane's Mead High School thus becoming the first player from the Greater Spokane League to choose WSU since 1985.
The effort an commitment to excellence it requires to transform a Division I basketball program into a winner is nothing new for Murrell.
When Murrell took over as head coach of the University of the Pacific in 1999, she inherited a team that had posted consecutive 9-18 seasons. Murrell quickly turned matters around in her first season at Stockton, leading the Tigers to a 14-13 overall record including a 10-5 mark in Big West Conference play.
Murrell departed Pacific on a high note as she capped her string of winning seasons with a 19-11 record in 2002, the most triumphs by the program since 1995. Additionally, the four consecutive winning seasons under Murrell's watch marked the first time since 1993-96 that Pacific had put together a string of four winning campaigns.
Before coming to Pacific, Murrell served as the top assistant at Portland State from 1997-99.
Murrell previously was head coach at George Fox University in Newberg, Ore., where she compiled a 52-33 record and led her team to three playoff appearances. She was named the Cascade Conference Coach of the Year twice, in 1994 and 1995, and led the Bruins into the NAIA Top-25 for the first time in school history during the 1994-95 season.
Prior to becoming head coach at George Fox, Murrell spent one season as a Bruin assistant. During the 1991-92 season, she was an assistant coach at Brigham Young University, and prior to that she spent one year as an assistant at Pepperdine University.
Murrell is a 1991 graduate of Pepperdine with a degree in public relations. She played two seasons as point guard for the Waves, earning All-West Coast Conference honors in 1990. Murrell also played two years of basketball at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Murrell graduated from Portland's St. Mary's Academy, where she was a member of the 1985 Oregon State 4A championship team.
In 2003, Murrell became a member of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/Kodak All-American Team Selection Committee. Murrell serves as the representative for District 8, which encompasses the western part of the nation.
Murrell, along with the representatives from the other seven districts, selects the Kodak/WBCA All-America Team from a list of finalists determined by WBCA member coaches.
The Murrell File
BORN: Oct. 17, 1967, Redmond, Ore.
HOME TOWN: Portland, Ore.
HIGH SCHOOL: St. Mary's Academy, 1985 - Starter on St. Mary's 1985 Oregon 4A State championship team.
COLLEGE: University of Louisiana-Lafayette, 1986-88 - Played for two seasons for the Ragin Cajuns;
Pepperdine University, 1988-1991 - Earned a degree in public relations while playing two seasons for the Waves; earned All-West Coast Conference team honors at point guard senior year, 1990.
Washington State University, 2002-Present
Head coach. Signed a contract extension in March 2005 that keeps her at the helm of the program through the 2010 season.
Since 2003, is a member of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA)/Kodak All-American Team Selection Committee; serves as the representative for District 8, which encompasses the western part of the nation; along with representatives from the other seven districts, selects the Kodak/WBCA All-America Team from a list of finalists determined by WBCA member coaches.
Recruited Kate Benz, who, in 2005, became the first player in WSU history to lead the Pacific-10 Conference in rebounding, repeating the feat in 2006. Benz also earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors in 2006, the first such recognition for a Cougar player in nine years.
Recruited Adriane Ferguson, who became the first player from the Greater Spokane League to choose WSU since 1985.
Since Murrell's arrival at WSU, attendance has risen in each of her first three years at WSU. From 2002 -- the year prior to Murrell's arrival at WSU -- to 2005, attendance at WSU home games has increased over 86 percent.
University of the Pacific, 1998-2002
Head Coach. Coached the Tiger women to a 68-46 record in four years, including a 19-11 mark in 2002; in four years her teams went 40-20 in Big West Conference play.
In her first season team finished 10-5 in BWC play, equaling the school record for conference winning percentage. In her second season, 2000, her team won 18 games, the highest win total since 1996; coached the Tigers to their first appearance in the Big West Tournament semifinals since 1996.
Recruited Selena Ho, who won BWC Freshman of the Year honors in 1999, then finished her career with back-to-back first team honors, only the third Pacific player to twice earn first team conference honors.
Selena Ho and Gillian d'Hondt were both named to the BWC first team in 2002, the first time Pacific had two players named to the conference first team.
Guided the Tigers to a 19-11 season in 2002, the most wins by a Pacific team since the 1995 team won 20.
Completed her career with four consecutive winning seasons; not since 1993-96 had Pacific put together a string of four straight winning campaigns.
Portland State University, 1996-98
Top assistant to Viking head coach Jenny Yopp for two seasons.
George Fox College, 1992-96
First served a year as an assistant coach (1992-93), then was named head coach for the 1993-94 season; coached the Bruins to a 52-33 record in three seasons; also served as graduate admissions coordinator for four years and assisted the Bruin Club for two years, identifying potential donors to GFC athletics.
Cascade Conference Coach of the Year, 1994 and 1995.
In 1995, led the Bruins to a Top 25 ranking in the national NAIA poll for the first time in school history.
Brigham Young University, 1991-92
Assistant coach one season for head coach Jeanie Wilson.
Pepperdine University, 1990-91
After completing her playing career with the Waves, served for one year as an assistant coach for head coach Ron Fortner.