Lady Raider head coach Rick Insell calls a play to a player during the Jan. 5, 2013, games against South Alabama at the Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Photo courtesy of MTSU Athletics/B. Lambert)
MTSU women’s basketball coach Rick Insell reached a career summit Jan. 5, when he became the winningest coach in the program’s history after the Lady Raiders beat South Alabama, 60-39.
The momentum continued Wednesday night when MTSU knocked off Florida Atlantic, 73-59. With those two wins last week, Insell now has 184 career wins at the school.
Insell was humble after the Jan. 5 win, giving credit to those people before him, and helped build the Blue Raider women’s basketball program over the years.
“It humbles you as a coach,” Insell said after the Jan. 5 game. “When (MTSU President) Dr. Sidney McPhee and (Director of Athletes) Chris Massaro hired me, that record was the last thing on my mind. I did not even think about that. (Former MTSU coaches) Lewis Bivens, Larry Joe Inman and Stephany Smith all did great jobs of building the foundation of this program to be able to come in and have some success early. You have to look back at the players and the coaching staffs over the years. This record goes to me, but it really belongs to them.”
Currently, Insell is in his eighth season at the helm of the program.
Those eight seasons have been filled with much success, including six trips to the NCAA tournament, three players being WNBA draft picks and four Sun Belt conference tournament titles. Also, his teams have not feared and even beaten some of the top programs in the nation, including four SEC schools in Georgia, LSU, Kentucky and Alabama.
In a sit down interview before last Wednesday’s win over Florida Atlantic University, Insell gave most of the credit for the achievements of the Blue Raiders program to the quality of high school basketball in the Volunteer State.
“In this area you see an emphasis placed on women’s basketball,” Insell said. “There are a lot of good basketball players, and you've just got to find them.”
Before taking over the Lady Raider program heading to the 2005-06 season, Insell made his coaching imprint at Shelbyville Central High School, where he not only made the Golden Eaglettes one of the best in the state, but also in the nation.
During his 28 seasons in Shelbyville, the Golden Eaglettes won 10 TSSAA state titles, two USA Today national championships, and Insell finished with an 84 percent winning mark at the school.
His run in Shelbyville ended in May 2005 when Insell decided to take on a new challenge. By then, the MTSU job opened up after head coach Stephany Smith left to take the job as the head women's basketball coach at the University of Alabama. The Lady Raiders were coming off an appearance in the NCAA Tournament, which it upset North Carolina State in the first round, and then lost to Texas Tech in the following round.
Insell wanted the chance to see if his success could be carried over to the college game.
“I needed a challenge, because I wanted to see if I can coach at the college level, and against the best coaches in the world,” Insell said.
So far, he has shown he can hold his own on the college court too.
This year, the Lady Raiders are looking for their sixth Sun Belt regular season title. Currently, MTSU is 10-5, 5-1 in the SBC and it just took over first place in the SBC Eastern Division after the Jan. 9 home win against Florida Atlantic.
Insell knows there could be a chance only one SBC squad makes the NCAA tournament this season, so the Lady Raiders are working toward that goal in a conference where the quality of competition has improved greatly in the past few seasons.
“We’ve got to be the best team going into the SBC tournament in March,” Insell said.
For Insell, winning basketball games is nothing new, but he is always gearing up to win the next one on the schedule.