The first question the new South Dakota women’s basketball manager, Kayla Karius, was asked during the hiring process was “why the USD?”
“Yes!” said Karius on Monday, laughing. “I have it here.”
That was an easy answer, she said. And for South Dakota, that also made the choice easy: Karius was their next head coach.
Even when Dawn Plitzuweit left the program to be the next head coach in West Virginia, South Dakota President Sheila Gestring said the program remains on “an incredible track.” There were many talented candidates to choose from, she said, but in the end, Karius made it easy.
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“I could tell you what,” said USD Athletic Director David Herbster, “we got it just right.”
Karius was introduced as the 11th head coach in program history on Monday. Her hiring is yet another commitment to perhaps the best era of South Dakota players. After South Dakota, Karius spent three seasons in Wisconsin and then a year with Drake, where she was an assistant before returning to the Coyotes.
An assistant under Dawn Plitzuweit for Plitzuweit’s first two seasons in South Dakota, Karius played a role in recruiting South Dakota greats Chloe Lamb and Hannah Sjerven, as well as Liv Korngable, Monica Arens, current Coyotes striker Allison Peplowski and more. She “spearheaded” the defense during her time with the program, saying she sees “eye-to-eye” with Plitzuweit the way she ran the team on the defensive end of the floor.
Although her role is different now, she is committed to recruiting the state of South Dakota and making herself available for training, just as she did as an assistant at USD four years ago.
“We’ve created incredible memories and there’s just something about this place that really feels like a home to us,” Karius said. “So this is a real no-brainer for us to return to Vermillion and make this our new home.”
Earlier:Dawn Plitzuweit on leaving South Dakota: ‘It’s hard to say goodbye’
Knowledge of program one of driving factors in hiring, says Herbster
Herbster said Karius quickly “reaffirmed” much of what he knew about her during the hiring process. Herbster was attracted to the knowledge: Karius knows the program and knows the players to be recruited who can be successful in Vermillion.
Especially with the success of player-driven coaches like Plitzuweit before Karius, Herbster pointed to Karius’ ability to nurture a positive environment in the team. There will be times on the floor, “where things do not go well,” Herbster said, but one characteristic of Karius that has followed her in all her stops is that players do not “get visibly angry” at each other.
“It’s very important (that) – not just the communication on the pitch, but off the pitch – to develop this sense of family and really connect the team not only with the department but the community,” Herbster said. “So you’re really bought into it.”
Karius did not come in with any coaching experience, but Herbster said “sometimes it just feels right.” He made comparisons to the hiring process for USD volleyball head coach Leanne Williamson, who had no experience running his own program but has now led the Coyotes to four consecutive NCAA tournaments.
Karius knew it was a question she needed to address, but she tried to lean on “the benefits of my side.” She’s been there, she knows how to recruit there, and she already has a past relationship through recruiting in either South Dakota, Wisconsin or Drake with all but two members of the Coyotes 2021-22 list.
She also got to see how the transition to a new coach in South Dakota women’s basketball is. When Karius entered the program, Plitzuweit took on former head coach Amy Williams, who had just returned from a WNIT championship with the Coyotes – at the time the greatest achievement in the program’s history.
“There will be some of the cultural pieces that I think make sense to continue,” Karius said. “I think those were my great benefits from coming back here.”
Karius still did not know what to expect. But Herbster introduced her to the team Sunday night, and “it was like a surprise party.”
“The glow in their eyes. The excitement. The smiles. The hugs,” Herbster said. “It was like an old home week.”
All of the women’s basketball players currently enrolled in South Dakota were there, Karius said. Karius said she was even able to hold talks with the South Dakota players currently on the transfer portal, freshman guards Maddie Krull and Kyah Watson – talks she would like to continue in the future.
The warm reception at first was fun, but as her first day begins, Karius said priority number one is to spend even more time with the team.
“It’s really about spending time with them and getting on the floor with them,” Karius said, “but also spending that one-on-one time with them and making sure we start and in some cases continue to develop. a relationship. “
Follow Sioux Falls Argus Leader reporter Michael McCleary on Twitter @mikejmccleary.