Clark-Heard hired as new WKU women’s basketball coach

New WKU women's basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard

New WKU women's basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard

Michelle Clark-Heard, a University of Louisville assistant and former Western Kentucky standout, is WKU’s 15th women’s basketball coach, the school announced today.

Clark-Heard, 43, replaces Mary Taylor Cowles, who was fired March 8 after 10 seasons as head coach. The Lady Toppers went 9-21 in 2011-12, totaling the most losses in a season in program history.

WKU will have a news conference at 4 p.m. today at E.A. Diddle Arena to officially announce the hiring.

Clark-Heard, who played for former WKU coach Paul Sanderford from 1987-90, returns to the Lady Toppers after five seasons as an assistant at Louisville.

The Cardinals reached the Sweet 16 three times during Clark-Heard’s tenure, including a national runner-up finish in 2009. Their current season ended Monday with a 72-68 loss to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

During each of Clark-Heard’s first four seasons at Louisville, the Cardinals locked up a recruiting class in the top 12 nationally, including a 2010 class ranked as high as fifth.

Before that, Clark-Heard spent two seasons as head coach at Kentucky State. She took over a program that went 5-23 the year before her arrival, and in her final season at the helm, the Thorobrettes finished 19-9.

Clark-Heard also has assistant coaching experience at Cincinnati, Nebraska and DuPont Manual High School.

The 6-foot-2-inch center won two Sun Belt Conference championships and went to the NCAA tournament four straight seasons as a player at WKU. She played in 118 games during her four years, was involved in 89 victories and played her final three seasons with Cowles.

Other popular names during WKU’s search included Kentucky assistants Matt Insell and Kyra Elzy, Notre Dame assistant Jonathan Tsipis and Wright State head coach Mike Bradbury.

The coaching search was handled by athletic director Ross Bjork and senior associate athletic director Todd Stewart. WKU president Gary Ransdell joined the interviewing process this week, when Bjork accepted the AD position at Mississippi.

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