2024 Kathy Delaney-Smith Mid-Major Coach of the Year presented by Her Hoop Stats Preseason Watch List
20 coaches named to inaugural preseason watch list
HOPEWELL, N.J. (November 1, 2023) — We are proud to announce the 20-person watch list for the 2024 Kathy Delaney-Smith Mid-Major Coach of the Year Award presented by Her Hoop Stats. This is the inaugural season of the award, and the award is named after the legendary former Harvard head coach.
This year’s watch list includes coaches from 16 conferences. Nine of the 20 coaches had players named to our 2024 Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year preseason watch list. Below are the 20 watch list members, ordered alphabetically by team name.
Watch List Highlights
Chris Gobrecht, Air Force
Gobrecht has elevated Air Force in her time there, despite the unusual constraints faced by building a team at a service academy, and even led the Falcons to their only postseason victory in program history in 2021-22.
Bart Brooks, Belmont
Brooks held Belmont steady through a transition to the more competitive MVC, making a run to the MVC championship game before falling to Drake. Brooks and the Bruins have made the NCAA Tournament in all but one of his seasons in Nashville (2019-20 season excluded), including first-round victories in both 2021 and 2022.
Chris Kielsmeier, Cleveland St.
Kielsmeier led the Vikings to an 11-win improvement, winning a program-record 30 games to surpass the previous high of 23 wins. The Vikings cracked the top 100 of the HHS Ratings for the first time in the HHS Era (since 2009-10) and posted their highest average margin of victory (+16.1) in the HHS Era by more than nine points per game.
Megan Griffith, Columbia
Griffith has led Columbia on their rise through the Ivy League, culminating in a season of historic achievements in 2022-23. The Lions won their first share of an Ivy League regular season title, tying the powerhouse Princeton program at 12-2 in the regular season. They also snapped a 27-game losing streak to Princeton. After narrowly missing an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in each of the past two seasons, Griffith led the Lions on a run to the WNIT’s quarterfinals in 2022 and the WNIT finals in 2023.
Brenda Mock Brown, ETSU
The reigning Southern Conference Coach of the Year, Coach Mock led the third-largest turnaround in Division I last season in her first season with the Bucs. ETSU improved from an HHS Rating of -19.7 (330th nationally) to a rating of 3.5 (132nd). She is no stranger to a major program rebuild, leading UNC Asheville to a 16-game improvement back in 2015-16.
Karl Smesko, FGCU
Smesko has established himself as one of the most consistent coaches in the nation ever since taking over at FGCU when the program was still in Division II. In the 16 years that the Eagles have been in Division I, Smesko has compiled an overall record of 449-83 (84.4%) and a conference record of 248-19 (92.9%).
Lisa Fortier, Gonzaga
Fortier has assembled a deep roster in her time at Gonzaga, and her Zags squad enters the 2023-24 season with a very high ceiling. Gonzaga became the first team since the birth of our Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award to place three players on the same watch list, and Gonzaga is one of just three mid-major programs to receive votes in the preseason AP Top 25.
Chelsea Banbury, High Point
Banbury, who both played and coached under Smesko at FGCU, has turned High Point into one of the most prolific 3-point shooting teams in the nation over the past four seasons.
Kristen Gillespie, Illinois St.
Gillespie took over a Redbirds team in 2017-18 that had gone just 18-73 over the prior three seasons. In her six seasons in Normal, she has put up a 111-70 record overall and has brought the team to postseason play in each of the last three seasons. She has excelled at producing transfer and recruiting success stories, coaching four of the last six MVC Newcomer of the Year winners.
Tomekia Reed, Jackson St.
Reed has led Jackson St. to three consecutive SWAC regular season titles in one of the program’s most successful stretches of all time. In 2022, Reed and the Tigers pushed No. 3 seeded LSU to their limits in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, narrowly missing a chance to become the first 14 seed to win a game in the tournament.
Rick Insell, Middle Tenn.
Insell has been at the helm in Murfreesboro since 2005-06, compiling a 433-151 record across 18 seasons. In that time he has coached four WNBA draft picks, including Cheyenne Parker and Alysha Clark.
Jada Pierce, Niagara
Pierce has coached Niagara through ups and downs and currently has the Purple Eagles on an upswing. Niagara was selected as the preseason favorite to win the MAAC for the first time in program history.
Carla Berube, Princeton
Berube had big shoes to fill when she replaced Courtney Banghart in 2019-20, who had posted a 254-103 record in her 12 seasons. Berube has stepped up to the opportunity, winning 86.2% of Princeton’s games over the last three seasons.
Tammi Reiss, Rhode Island
Reiss and the Rams have experienced a very quick turnaround from a perennial 20-loss team to a perennial 20-win team. With Mayé Touré returning after her 2022-23 breakout season, as well as the addition of Syracuse transfer Teisha Hyman, Rhode Island could make even more noise this season.
Aaron Johnston, South Dakota St.
Thanks to Johnston, South Dakota St. has been a consistent mid-major powerhouse for nearly two decades. The Jackrabbits’ consistent success has continued as they regularly put together strong non-conference schedules to bulk up their tournament resumes.
Tricia Cullop, Toledo
Toledo went an impressive 11-2 in single-digit games last season, which is the second-best record for any team to play in at least 13 such games to trail only St. John’s who went 12-2. Cullop and Toledo star Quinesha Lockett have brought the Rockets to back-to-back MAC regular season championships.
Tanya Warren, UNI
After many years of playing runner-up to Missouri State and Drake, Warren and UNI have risen to the top of the MVC and were selected as the preseason favorites to take home the conference championship in one of the most competitive conferences in the country.
Lindy La Rocque, UNLV
One of the best stories of last year, La Rocque and her UNLV team continued their upward trend to the top of the Mountain West, setting a program record with 31 wins. The Las Vegas native has sights set on a third-consecutive sweep of the MWC regular season and conference tournament titles.
Jose Fernandez, USF
Since Fernandez and South Florida moved to the Big East in 2005-06 and eventually joined the AAC, the Bulls have made either the NCAA Tournament or WNIT in all but one season.
Alisa Kresge, Vermont
In her first head coaching job after about a decade as an assistant, Kresge has elevated the Vermont program from one that didn’t exceed 10 wins in any of the prior eight seasons into one that posted a 25-7 record last season.
Award Eligibility & Schedule
To be eligible for the award, coaches must compete in one of the 26 conferences deemed to be “mid-major.” The following conferences are considered high-major for the purposes of this award, and thus ineligible: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC. Interim head coaches are eligible, although total games coached will be taken into consideration.
In January, the 10-person midseason watch list will be announced. The five finalists for the award will be announced in March, with the winner being named around the Final Four. Coaches will be assessed across the entire season, including postseason play. Beyond on-court success, other factors such as recruiting, preseason expectations, injuries, and tactical coaching will also be weighed when assessing each candidate. Inclusion on previous watch lists is not a requirement to be considered for future watch lists.
About Kathy Delaney-Smith
Delaney-Smith’s Harvard teams compiled a record of 630-434 (.592) in her 40-year career, including a 367-168 (.685) record in Ivy League play. Delaney-Smith’s 630 wins rank 29th in Division I history, and ninth among coaches who spent their entire career with a single team.
Delaney-Smith led her teams to six NCAA Tournament appearances and nine WNIT appearances, plus three Ivy League titles before the NCAA Tournament awarded automatic bids to the Ivy League champion. She has coached eight Ivy League Player of the Year recipients, six Ivy League Rookie of the Year winners, and all 21 of Harvard’s 1,000-point scorers in program history.
Delaney-Smith was inducted into the Massachusetts Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1986, becoming the first woman to ever be inducted, with more than three decades of her career still ahead of her. She was also inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
A native of Newton, Mass., Delaney-Smith is also among the most accomplished high school players and coaches in the state’s history. She was the first woman in state history to score 1,000 points while at Sacred Heart High School. As a high school coach, Delaney-Smith coached Westwood High School to an overall record of 204-31 across 11 seasons, including a 96-game winning streak.
About Her Hoop Stats
Her Hoop Stats was founded in 2017 to unlock better insight about women's basketball at all levels. We began as a statistics site focused on providing consistent, reliable, and easy-to-access data about women's basketball for both mobile and desktop environments. Her Hoop Stats has expanded to become a leading independent voice in the women's game providing content through our newsletter, podcast network, YouTube channel, and social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).