LOUISVILLE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL | NCAA FINAL 4 PRACTICE 2
Considered by many to be the best young coach in women's basketball, Jeff Walz has made a career out of building successful programs. Walz has lived up to that reputation since taking over the helm at Louisville, taking the program to new heights. In his first four seasons, he has guided the Cardinals to their first Final Four appearance and a 2009 National Runner-up finish along with three Sweet 16 appearances.
Walz's success can be traced back to recruiting. He is known as a tireless recruiter and has not let up since becoming a head coach. In just his first season, Walz and his staff brought in the highest ranked recruiting class in Cardinal history. He has since followed it up with three consecutive Top 10 classes, with the 2010 class ranked fifth in the nation. The 2011 class made school history with two McDonald's All-Americans.
He was named the sixth head coach at the University Louisville on March 27, 2007. Walz, a Kentucky native, returned to the bluegrass state after serving as an associate head coach at Maryland.
Last season Walz had his most talented team in four seasons but lost two of his top three scorers early in the season. Despite the adversity, Walz led the team to a 23-10 record. The Cardinals advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and ended the season with a final ranking of 16th in the nation.
In 2011 Walz once again had his Louisville team primed for postseason play. The Cardinals surprised everyone by knocking off the No. 2 seed Xavier Musketeers, led by freshman sensation Shoni Schimmel with a career-high 33 points. The Cards advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four seasons under the direction of Walz.
Walz tested his young squad with a grueling schedule to prepare them for conference and postseason play. While picked to finish eighth in the BIG EAST preseason poll, the Cards finished sixth in the conference with a 10-6 record. Louisville earned a first-round bye in the BIG EAST Tournament and advanced to the quarterfinals. The young Cardinals held their own, finishing the season with a 6-7 record against ranked opponents. Louisville finished the year ranked 19th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.
There were many highlights in Walz's fourth season at Louisville, including two sell outs in the new 22,000 seat arena. The Cardinals finished second in the nation in attendance, averaging 10,859 fans per game. For the second consecutive year, Monique Reid was named to the All-BIG EAST First Team. Schimmel lived up to all expectations in her first season, averaging 15.1 points and 4.9 assists per game. For her efforts she was named a Basketball Times First Team All-American. She was also a unanimous selection to the BIG EAST All-Freshman team and earned All-BIG EAST honorable mention honors. Freshman center Sheronne Vails was also named to the BIG EAST All-Freshman Team.
In his second season at the helm, Walz guided the Cardinals to the 2009 National Championship game. He became just the second coach to take a team to the national championship game after just two seasons as a head coach. They finished the year with an overall record of 34-5, setting the school record for most wins in school history. They also finished the year ranked second in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll for the highest ranking in school history.
The Cardinals were ranked in the Top 10 the majority of the season. They finished second in the BIG EAST with a 14-2 record for their best finish in the league. The Cardinals advanced to the BIG EAST Tournament title game for the second consecutive year, falling to top-ranked UConn.
Louisville became the Cinderella story of the 2009 NCAA Tournament by knocking off two No. 1 seeds and a No. 2 seed to advance to the championship game.
The Cardinals were seeded third in the Raleigh Region, earning their highest seed in school history. Louisville defeated second seeded Baylor and top seeded Maryland in the Sweet 16 to earn their first ever NCAA Final Four appearance.
Under Walz's guidance seniors Angel McCoughtry and Candyce Bingham earned first team All-BIG EAST honors and became the most decorated senior class in school history. Both were named to the Raleigh Regional All-Tournament team, with McCoughtry being named Most Outstanding Player.
McCoughtry was a consensus first team All-American her senior year and was a finalist for the Wooden, Wade and Naismith Awards. She became the only Cardinal to be a three time State Farm/WBCA All-American. She was also the first pick of the 2009 WNBA Draft.
In his first season, Walz guided the Cardinals to their first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. Louisville finished with a 26-10 record and their highest national ranking at No. 12 in the final ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. He was named the WBCA/Maggie Dixon Rookie Head Coach of the Year.
Walz had the Cardinals ready for a late season run that began with the BIG EAST Tournament. He guided the Cardinals to their biggest win in school history, knocking off No. 4 Rutgers in the quarterfinals of the tournament. It was the Cardinals' first win over a Top 5 opponent. The Cardinals then dropped No. 16 West Virginia in the semifinals for their first back-to-back wins over ranked opponents.
Louisville played in their first BIG EAST Tournament final against top-ranked Connecticut. The Cardinals came alive in the second half and almost pulled their third upset in three days but fell short.
Louisville's run in the BIG EAST Tournament helped the Cardinals earn their best NCAA Tournament seed, seeded No. 4. The Cardinals defeated Miami (Ohio) 81-67 in the first round and then handed No. 15 Kansas State an 80-63 loss to advance to the Sweet 16.
The Cardinals faced second ranked North Carolina in their first Sweet 16 game. The game was played to the wire before the Tar Heels defeated the Cardinals 78-74.
Walz's guidance helped Angel McCoughtry earn numerous All-American honors, including being named to the WBCA/State Farm All-American team.
The Cardinals earned an early preseason ranking of No. 10 last season with four starters returning combined with the 11th ranked recruiting class in the nation.
Before coming to Louisville, Walz's career highlights as an assistant included helping guide his teams to nine NCAA Tournaments, one WNIT appearance and one National Championship.
In just five seasons at Maryland, Walz helped Head Coach Brenda Frese build a national power. Maryland has earned an NCAA Tournament bid the last 5 seasons, breaking through to the Sweet Sixteen in 2006, en route to winning the program's first national championship that year. In his tenure at Maryland, seven Terrapins earned All-ACC accolades, while Crystal Langhorne and Marissa Coleman were tabbed ACC Rookies of the Year in back-to-back seasons. He also assisted in signing back-to-back top-five ranked recruiting classes in 2004 and 2005.
Walz first joined Frese's staff at Minnesota for one year after coaching for four seasons at Nebraska. At Minnesota, he worked with the posts and centers, including 2002 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Janel McCarville, while also taking on scouting and recruiting efforts for the Gophers during the staff's 22-8 season.
Prior to his stint at Minnesota,Walz served as an assistant at Nebraska under head coach Paul Sanderford from 1997-2001. At Nebraska he was involved with all aspects of the program, from coordinating the Huskers' recruiting efforts, to tracking student-athletes' academics, to scheduling and camps.
He helped Nebraska to a school-record three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances (1998, 1999, 2000) and also coached Nicole Kubik, the L.A. Sparks' No. 1 draft pick in the 2000 WNBA Draft. By his final year at Nebraska, Walz was in charge of conducting individual development workouts as well as opponent scouting.
Sanderford gave Walz his first collegiate coaching job at Western Kentucky in 1996 after serving as the team's administrative assistant the previous season. During that season, the Hilltoppers finished with a 22-9 record. They became Sun Belt Co-Champions, and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Walz began his coaching career at the middle and high school levels in 1992 and was an AAU coach in 1995-96. During his career, he has guided such players as 1996 National High School Player of the Year Jaime Walz, his sister, who now coaches the girls' high school team at their alma mater, Highlands High School. He also coached 1999 NCAA champion and WNBA standout Ukari Figgs, the University of Tennessee's Kyra Elzy, and Ohio State standout Louisville native, Marita Porter.
He attended Northern Kentucky University on a basketball scholarship, graduating with a bachelor of science in secondary education in May 1995. Walz earned his master's in education in August of 1997 from Western Kentucky.
Walz has two children, daughter Kaeley and son Jacob. He married the former Lauren Lueders in September and the couple resides in Louisville.