Kamie Ethridge named coach of the year by The Athletic

Ethridge leads underrated roster to first Pac-12 Championship



WSU women’s basketball head coach Kamie Ethridge talks to the WSU bench during an NCAA basketball game against Cal, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports co-editor

In five years, WSU head coach Kamie Ethridge has transformed a historically underachieving power five program into a Conference champion.

When Ethridge arrived in Pullman in 2018, WSU women’s basketball had experienced very little success. Since its inception in 1970, the team had only qualified for one NCAA Tournament (in 1991) and had never won more than 18 games in a single season.

Kamie Ethridge coaches the WSU women’s basketball team on Feb. 2, 2020.

Ethridge came to WSU fresh off an NCAA Tournament appearance in her previous job as the head coach of Northern Colorado University.

At Northern Colorado, Ethridge coached Krystal Leger-Walker, daughter of Leanne Leger-Walker who attended the 2000 and 2004 Olympics with the Tall Ferns, the New Zealand National Team.

Despite promising the Leger-Walkers she would stay at Northern Colorado throughout her college career, she took the WSU job and apologized to Krystal.

Krystal forgave her presumably as in 2020, she transferred to WSU for her final two years of college basketball where she led the Cougars to two consecutive NCAA Tournaments and the program’s first 19-win season.

In 2020, Krystal’s sister Charlisse committed to WSU and has swiftly become one of the best players in college basketball.

Also changing course from Northern Colorado to WSU was Australian player Ula Motuga, who wanted to follow Ethridge to WSU.

I committed without even seeing WSU and that was purely based on how much I was like impressed by what Kamie was telling me what Laurie was telling me,” Motuga said. “And then come to a town where there’s nothing but wheat fields as you know and into a program where there wasn’t a lot of success.”

WSU forward Ula Motuga hugs WSU women’s basketball head coach Kamie Ethridge while leaving the court during her last game in Beasley Coliseum, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

Center Bella Murekatete was recruited by WSU’s previous coach after a standout high school career in Post Falls, Idaho. Murekatete moved from Rwanda to the U.S. for high school.

“[Ethridge] really cares about you as a person and that impresses me,” Murekatete said. “She wants everyone around her to try to help her players and not just in basketball but really in general.”

Eight of Ethridge’s 13 players are from outside of the U.S.

Ethridge said international players tend to be more mature than college-age players in the U.S.

They also tend to be more willing to give WSU a chance than players in the U.S. and especially in the Pacific Northwest who are familiar with the history (or lack of relevant history) of WSU women’s basketball.

Ethridge praised players like Grace Sarver from West Seattle, who were willing to give WSU a chance early in her tenure.

Ethridge said that most of the players on WSU’s roster choose between mid-major universities and WSU, with Wazzu being one of their only power five offers.

By assembling a group of underrated players, Ethridge transformed a forgettable power five program into a Pac-12 Championship.

Journalists at The Athletic recognized this and sung her praises when they named Ethridge The Athletics’ Coach of the Year.

“It’s far more difficult to recruit to Pullman, Wash. and even more difficult to put together a team that can win there. There isn’t a single four- or five-star player on the Cougs’ roster,” journalist Chantel Jennings said in The Athletic’s article.

Ethridge has built a championship-winning roster after a legendary playing career at University of Texas and for Team U.S.A.

Chirs Caskey, WSU women’s basketball Sports Information Director, sang Ethridge’s praises on Twitter.

She is a Hall of Famer for a reason!!! She was the point guard of the first NCAA Women’s Basketball team to go undefeated in a season and win the national title and she won an Olympic Gold Medal with the US in Seoul!!!<br><br>She is a legend!!!

A tribute to Ethridge and her success at WSU would be incomplete without an acknowledgment of the Cougs’ former head coach, the late June Daugherty.

Daugherty coached at WSU for 11 seasons (2007–18)  after coaching at University of Washington for 11 seasons (1996–2007).

WSU recruited some of the best players the program has seen under Daugherty’s leadership and qualified for the Women’s National Invitational Tournament three times in (2014, 2015 and 2017).

Daugherty died August 2, 2021.

“I can’t tell you how incredibly happy this tweet makes me. June laid the foundation down for us,” Caskey tweeted in reply to a tweet that said, “June Daugherty is smiling in heaven.”

Ethridge took what Daugherty built and has honored her legacy by leading the Cougs to numerous program firsts, with the most significant being the Cougars’ program-defining Pac-12 Championship and program-high 23 single-season wins with a high-achieving and loveable roster.