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Huyett accepts job at Idaho State

MT file photo

ASHLAND - Shirley Huyett, who brought women's basketball to national prominence at Southern Oregon University, accepted the head women's job at Idaho State University on Friday.

Huyett, 47, posted a 220-111 record at SOU and guided the Raiders to winning records and playoff appearances in each of her 11 seasons at the school.

"My dream has always been to coach at the Division I level and this is an opportunity I just can't pass up," Huyett said. "It's time to move on."

Huyett replaces Ardie McInelly, who left Idaho State on June 7 to become the women's head coach at Air Force.

Huyett said she has kept her eyes open for major college jobs for several years, but her choices were limited because she wanted to stay in the Northwest.

"There just aren't that many Division I openings in the Northwest," she said.

The jump from the small college to the NCAA Division I head coaching level is a rare one - Huyett is the first coach at SOU to make such a move since Howard Hobson left Southern Oregon for the University of Oregon in 1935. But she obviously made a favorable impression with Idaho State officials.

"Shirley is a proven coach who is highly respected by her peers," Idaho State Athletic Director Howard Gauthier said. "Her track record as a head coach ... is tremendous."

Huyett, who was a standout player at Philomath High School and Oregon State in the early 1970s, said the differences between small college and major college basketball aren't as great as some people make them out to be.

"The athletes are a little bigger and quicker and the recruiting is certainly more intense," Huyett said, "but it's still all about teaching the game of basketball and getting your team prepared to play.

"I'd like to think that my work ethic and knowledge of the game will see me through at a higher level."

In a sense, recruiting should be easier at Idaho State, where Huyett will have 15 full scholarships to work with instead of the three she had at SOU.

"When you don't have the ability to offer a lot of money, it's difficult to get the really good player," Huyett said. "We've had to sell kids on the school and being part of a winning program. It'll be nice to just say, 'You've got a full ride if you play for us."

Idaho State, a member of the Big Sky Conference, advanced to the NCAA tournament last season after winning the Big Sky title and posting a 25-5 record. The Pocatello-based Bengals return three starters and 11 letter winners.

"It's a program on the rise, and I'm hoping to build on that," Huyett said.

Huyett inherited a losing program at SOU in the fall of 1990. But she was able to fashion a winning record that season (15-13), posted a 19-10 mark the following year and then went 20-7 and won the Cascade Conference in 1992-93.

The best was yet to come. Her 1996-97 squad went 25-9, qualified for the school's first NAIA tournament appearance and came within one basket of appearing in the national championship game. Between 1997 and '99, the Raiders went 55-9 and spent seven weeks as the country's No. 1-ranked team.

Last season, SOU recovered from an 0-6 start to post a 16-14 mark.

Prior to her arrival in Ashland, Huyett coached Philomath High, her alma mater, to three straight Val-Co League titles and back-to-back state championships. During one stretch, her Philomath teams won a state record 54 straight games.

Southern Oregon Athletic Director Phil Pifer said a search for Huyett's successor will begin immediately.

In 11 seasons as the head coach of the SOU's women's basketball team, Shirley Huyett, left, never had a losing season.