In a surprise – but pleasant – twist, the Lethbridge College Kodiaks didn’t have to look far to find a coaching staff for its women’s basketball team.
After previously announcing her resignation, a change in life circumstances has allowed Deanna Simpson, the reigning ACAC south division coach of the year, to return to the team for the 2020-21 season. Simpson, who is expecting her first child any day now, will be joined by Ken McMurray as co-coaches for the upcoming season. McMurray was the Kodiaks assistant coach last season. Danielle Fritzke will join the Kodiaks as an assistant coach.
“This is great news for the Kodiaks and our women’s basketball student-athletes,” says Todd Caughlin, manager of Kodiaks Athletics. “While we completely understood why Deanna had to step away, we are thrilled she is returning to continue building the culture she has implemented. Adding Ken to the mix will help take some of the pressure off Deanna as a new parent, and he will bring a wealth of experience to the program that is sure to benefit our student-athletes.”
Simpson has spent the past three seasons as head coach of the Kodiaks women’s team, making the ACAC playoffs in each of the past two seasons. She re-built the program after a mass graduation of players following the Kodiaks national championship season in 2016-17. Prior to becoming head coach, Simpson (then known as Deanna Dotts) was an assistant coach for three seasons and finished her playing career as a Kodiak from 2013 to 2015 after previously playing for the University of Lethbridge.
“I am looking forward to continuing to be a part of the Kodiaks program,” says Simpson. “Fully stepping away was a hard decision to make, but being able to co-coach with Ken was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I am excited to work with both Ken and Danielle in the coming season and build on the progress that has been made over the past few years.”
McMurray has more than 30 years of high school coaching experience with the Cardston Cougars boys and girls programs. An all-Canadian as a player for the University of Lethbridge, McMurray has helped to develop and graduate dozens of Cougars players onto college and university programs. Currently the principal at Cardston High School, McMurray joined the Kodiaks as an assistant midway through last season. He is also the father of current Kodiaks guard Matlin McMurray.
Another former Pronghorn student-athlete, Fritzke, will complete the staff as an assistant coach.
“Surrounding oneself with great people like Deanna and Danielle made it an easy decision for me to be part of the coaching team,” says McMurray. “Returning the core of our players who are hungry to build on our great end of the season playoff push is something we all are looking forward to. I’ve always believed basketball needs to be played the right way, which involves three simple things – team chemistry, great desire and an unselfish attitude on offence.”
Simpson and McMurray have already begun recruiting players and building their roster for 2020-21. Decisions on the playing status of all ACAC sports are still to be determined in the coming weeks and months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.