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Citing a need for more balance in her life, Northern Illinois women’s basketball coach Carol Owens resigned on Thursday.
“I want to focus more on my personal life, and what those things are, I feel like they’re private,” Owens said. “They’re things that I hold dear to my heart.”
Owens said she would take a break from coaching to reflect and stop putting things off in her personal life that she felt like she had put on the back-burner in her five seasons at NIU. She said her health is fine.
“There’s no worries there, but I am getting older,” Owens said.
Owens also said she felt supported by the athletic department and NIU Director of Athletics Jeff Compher.
“The administration was very supportive. I feel like this decision was my decision,” she said.
“[Compher] encouraged me to stay. We talked quite a bit about various things. Ultimately, it’s a decision I had to make for myself.”
Compher said Owens came to her earlier this week with the idea of resigning, but he told Owens to think it over for a few days. By Thursday, Owens made up her mind.
She leaves her alma mater with a 66-81 career coaching record and coming off a 10-19 season and a first-round elimination in the MAC Tournament.
“I think our program hit a pothole this year, but it wasn’t going to be off track,” Compher said. “I felt like we could recover and build the program. It was a bit of a shock, but you’ve got to respect Carol’s decision. She knows what’s best for her at this time in her life and I respect that and I just wish her all the best.”
Compher said he will conduct a national search to find Owens’ replacement and that Owens’ staff will have the opportunity to apply for the head coach position or look to be a part of the next coaching staff.
Compher said is not planning on using a search firm to find the next coach.
Owens’ best season came in 2006-07, when the Huskies went 19-12 and NIU guard Stephanie Raymond was the No. 20 pick in the 2007 WNBA draft. Since then, Owens’ teams turned in records of 10-18, 15-15 and 10-19.
“I definitely feel like we had built a foundation,” said Owens, who played for the Huskies and is a member of NIU’s Athletic Hall of Fame. “We had accomplished some things. Did we accomplish the things that I wanted to? Absolutely not. Our goal is to win a MAC championship and get in the NCAA Tournament. I think our team and our program is on the right track to do that.”
Owens signed a recruiting class of four for the upcoming season, including two-time Daily Chronicle Girls Basketball Player of the Year Jenna Thorp from Hinckley-Big Rock.
“I’m just in shock right now,” Thorp said. “I really didn’t see it coming. She was a great person and I was looking forward to having her as a coach.”
When asked whether this changes her standing with Northern Illinois, the school she signed with in November, Thorp didn’t know what to say.
“Right now, I haven’t really thought about it,” Thorp said. “I’m just looking to see what happens.”
Thorp said Owens was one reason that she signed with the school, along with its proximity to her home, the campus and her future teammates.
Compher said he’s not looking for anyone in particular to replace Owens, but someone with head coaching experience would help. Owens spent 10 years as an assistant at Notre Dame before coming to coach NIU in 2005.
“I think head coaching experience might be a plus or a factor but it’s not going to be the determining factor for us,” Compher said.