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A Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Process Of Hiring A New Lady Bears Coach

Claire Kidwell

In this episode of KSMU’s monthly program Engaging the Community, we ask Missouri State University President Clif Smart about the process that went into hiring new MSU head women’s basketball coach Amaka Agugua-Hamilton.

“Coach Mox,” as Agugua-Hamilton is known, was previously associate head coach at Michigan State University. She replaces Kellie Harper, who stepped down this Spring to take a job coaching at the University of Tennessee.

You can listen to the interview below.

To the public’s perception, this decision was made in a matter of days; Smart says part of Athletic Director Kyle Moat's job is “always being ready to fill a position, so there are always lists.”

“And then in this particular case, we knew that Coach Harper had had a very successful run. And then the further we got into winning, the more likely that scenario became. And so Kyle was interacting with people and being prepared to move very quickly as soon as Tennessee announced that they were hiring Coach Harper,” Smart said.

The Lady Bears team made it to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament this year.

Smart says major coaching positions need to be filled quickly.

“And that’s because it’s so fluid and you’ve got players to deal with and players can leave and you’ve got recruits that are committed. And to keep momentum and stability in your program, you know, you need to do this in a matter of weeks and not months,” Smart said.

Before Harper announced she was leaving, Missouri State already had several things in motion to prepare for the possibility of her departure—especially given her success and the vacancy at Tennessee.

“And so, we had already talked before [Harper] got the job who our search committee would be. We’d already talked in terms of: I want a ten day or less timeline to make this announcement. We’d already set up when Skype interviews would be, how we could do in-person interviews that I participate in. And when the board could meet. And so all that was laid out, frankly, before we knew Coach Harper was getting this job,” Smart said.

Hiring for positions in other departments at the university level tends to take significantly longer.

Smart said it’s a goal of his to make all searches quicker, in part because the best candidates don’t always wait around for an offer to be made.

Some positions, however, especially those in leadership, do need significant input and time, he said.

“So if you’re hiring a provost or a chief diversity officer or a dean of a college, lots of people have a stake in that. Lots of people need to and want to be heard, and so you shouldn’t rush through that,” Smart said.

Coach “Mox” addressed a roomful of donors, university staff and players at the JQH Arena Wednesday. She said her approach to coaching follows the acronym “FAB”—Family first, then Athletics, then Basketball.