MALTA – After two years of being a head coach, new Kishwaukee College women’s basketball coach Krystal Gundy said it’s felt as if she’s already been through the wringer.
Gundy comes to Kishwaukee after two seasons of coaching Rend Lake Community College in Ina – finishing one year with a winning record and another in which victories were hard to come by.
“You’re the decision-maker for how many people are on your roster and sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to make a statement or to better your team – whether that’s kicking girls off, having a girl not play as much, having a girl play more than she should,” said Gundy, 29. “All of that comes into it.”
After spending a year as a graduate assistant and two years in charge of the junior varsity program at Lindenwood University, a Division II school in Springfield, Missouri, Gundy came to Rend Lake as an assistant for the 2014-15 season. The next season, she moved over to be the head coach of the Warriors.
“Pretty fast,” Gundy said about becoming head coach after only a year at Rend Lake. “I felt as though I knew what I was doing at that program. They were in a situation where their coach left, I had a sense of knowing what I was doing – I had helped start the JV program at Lindenwood, so I knew a lot of the scheduling and all that. It did happen kind of fast.”
In the first season with the Warriors, which play at the Division I level of the National Junior College Athletic Association, Gundy led the team to a 14-12 finish, but they didn’t fare as well in Year 2, with the team going 4-25 in the 2016-17 season.
In the world of junior college athletics, there is little time to slowly build for the future with the turnstile nature of a two-year system.
“You have a year or two to make something of the team that you built,” Gundy said. “You have a short amount of time to do it again and getting players to buy into the process quick and it’s junior college – for some players, it doesn’t click until February.”
Gundy takes over a program at Kishwaukee that went 10-21 in 2015-16, before not having a team last season. She said she’s still filling out a roster, hoping to have at least 12 players but said at one point at Rend Lake, the Warriors had only six available players. Gundy said she likes to switch up defenses and isn’t planning on relying on a star player to help carry the Kougars.
“It’s like I told the recruits: It’s not going to be about one player,” she said. “You might have had that in high school, but this is college. One game it could be so-and-so and the next game it could be a girl who didn’t even play last game. Just keeping them on board and not thinking, ‘Oh, we need to get the ball to so-and-so, and then we’ll be fine.’ You can’t really do that at this level.”
She understands that for many junior college players, the two-year tenure – sometimes only one year – is hopefully a pit stop to a larger university. During her two years at Rend Lake, she helped send six players to four-year schools, including guard Jada Ballew, who ended up transferring to Sam Houston State.
There is a different transition for Gundy to the head coaching spot at Kishwaukee, however. While she became the coach at Rend Lake after a year as an assistant and being familiar with the players and culture, she comes from the outside with the Kougars.
“Going from being an assistant to the head coach, you’ve already built the relationship with the players,” she said. “The ones you’ve already signed, the ones you’re bringing in. You’ve built some relationship with them already, as opposed to being on the outside coming in, like here at Kish. You have to come in expecting the best and wanting the best and not being scared of what you’re dealt with. Everything’s going to be a challenge.”