Williams leaving USD for Colorado State

In one grab, Colorado State University appears to have landed not only University of South Dakota head women's basketball coach Ryun Williams but also former coach Chad Lavin.

Ryun Williams, shown here questioning a referee’s call during the South Dakota women’s basketball game with South Dakota State University at the DakotaDome Feb. 13, will leave USD for Colorado State University, according to reports. (Plain Talk file photo)

The news of Williams' departure was confirmed this weekend by an incoming recruit and the news of Lavin's decision to be an assistant was confirmed by Yankton native Maggie Youngberg, a 2-year graduate assistant for Williams.

Williams leaves USD after compiling a 76-47 record in four seasons, all during the Division I transition, including back-to-back 20-win seasons and two straight post-season appearances.

The 43-year-old Williams, who still has family in his native Wyoming, plans to fly to Fort Collins, Colo., today, according to Youngberg.

"He always said there were only a couple jobs he would've left USD for, because he loves USD so much," Youngberg said Sunday. "Anybody who played for him or worked with him would say it's sad to lose him."

Williams, who previously spent three seasons at Sheridan College (Wyo.) and 10 seasons at Wayne State (Neb.), guided the Coyote women to a 23-8 record this past season and a berth in the WNIT — where USD beat Drake in the first round.

He will take over a program that was 13-17, third in the Mountain West Conference, last season under former coach Kristen Holt. The Rams haven't had a winning season since 2004-05.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for him," Youngberg said. "People at Colorado State should be super excited to have him. He was a joy to work with him, and I'm happy for him and his family.

"He'll do great things there."

News of Williams' departure began to circulate Saturday, and eventually word reached incoming recruit, Margaret McCloud of Rapid City Stevens.

"He's probably doing what's best," McCloud said Sunday. "It's a good opportunity for him. I'm just thankful that I got the chance to get to know him, because he's a great guy and a good coach.

"I wish I could play for him, but I know he's doing what he thinks is right," she added.

Williams took over for Lavin in 2008 and guided the Coyotes to an 18-11 record that first season, in 08-09. USD was 15-16 the following season and 20-12 in 2010-11, when the Coyotes qualified for the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI).

This past season, Williams guided USD to a 23-8 record and 12-6 mark in the Summit League as conference newcomers.

Watching along with the rest of the incoming class was McCloud, who averaged 16.5 points and 14.5 rebounds for the Raiders — who finished seventh at the state AA tournament.

"It was really exciting to see," McCloud said. "It was a little motivation to work extra hard to get to that step; to help the program move forward."

McCloud is one of five incoming recruits for the Coyotes in 2012-13, joining Heidi Hoff (Brandon Valley) and Tia Hemiller (Watertown), as well as transfers Mika Rodewald (Iowa Central CC) and Polly Harrington (Johnson County CC). Madison's Bailey Milne also committed as a walk-on.

In the case of Lavin, a 2011 inductee into the USD Sports Hall of Fame, his decision to join Williams at Colorado State was a surprise in some ways, but not others, Youngberg said.

"I told him, 'I had such a great time playing for both of you, you guys will do amazing,'" Youngberg said. "It's a great fit, having them working together. It surprises me that he'd get back into coaching like that, but it doesn't surprise me they would work together."

The Press & Dakotan was unable to reach Lavin on Sunday afternoon.

Youngberg said Williams and Lavin, who coached two stints at USD from 1982-86 and from 1998-2008, were in constant contact; always talking on the phone and watching game film together.

Lavin's final season as a head coach in 2007-08 was also his best. He guided the Coyotes to a 33-2 record and a berth in the Division II national championship game — though USD lost.

Since his retirement in 2008, Lavin has been conducting private camps and lessons for area players, and has had former USD women's and men's players serve as assistants — including Youngberg.

"It's such a wonderful job, and he gets to work with Lavin," she said. "I couldn't be happier for both of them."

Colorado State, which graduates just two players from last season's roster, has already established a pipeline from South Dakota.

Among the five women's basketball recruits signed to CSU is Caitlin Duffy, a 5-foot-11 guard from Rapid City and former standout at St. Thomas More.

Yankton native Colton Iverson is a member of the CSU men's basketball team, after transferring from Minnesota.

As far as who should take over for Williams at USD, which is NCAA post-season eligible next season, Youngberg said the bar has already been set high.

"I obviously feel like we should have standards; they've got some big shoes to fill," she said. "It's a great place to get a job right now, because it's growing and a lot is happening.

"They should be enthusiastic about coaching, and be ready to be part of a great Coyote family."

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