— By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall University is in the market for a new head women’s basketball coach.
Tony Kemper, who spent 11 years with the Thundering Herd overall and last six as head coach, stepped down Friday and accepted a similar position at Central Arkansas.
Kemper is a recognizable face to Central Arkansas fans. He was a men’s assistant coach at Central Arkansas from 2006-10 under Rand Chappell, and a women’s assistant under coach Matt Daniel from 2010-12. He followed Daniel to Marshall in 2012 and served as associate head coach until Daniel resigned in 2017.
Kemper replaces Sandra Rushing, who has stepped down as coach of the Sugar Bears after 11 seasons.
“We are all extremely grateful to Coach Kemper for the development of our Women’s Basketball program, as well as the 11 years of coaching and teaching he provided to the student-athletes he served,” Marshall Director of Athletics Christian Spears said in a university release. “We sincerely wish him and his family the best as he pursues this new opportunity at Central Arkansas.”
In his final season, Marshall finished 17-14 overall and 9-9 in its first season in the Sun Belt Conference. The Herd ended the season with a 63-42 loss to James Madison in the quarterfinals of the SBC Tournament. The 17 wins matched the top total during Kemper’s six years at the helm. His six-year mark at Marshall is 79-90 overall and 46-56 in league play (Sun Belt and Conference USA before that).
Spears said he wants to find a candidate to take the Herd women’s program to a championship level in the Sun Belt while building excitement within the community.
“As we prepare for the future of Marshall Women’s Basketball, we are grateful for our tremendous community, for our campus leadership and for our championship opportunities in the Sun Belt,” Spears said. “We know these attributes will help us recruit someone who shares our goals of building a championship program that is connected within our community while ensuring our student-athletes have a remarkable experience while they are here at Marshall.”
Central Arkansas is located in Conway, Ark. The school is a first-year member of ASUN Conference.
“I’m so excited to be back at Central Arkansas,” said Kemper, a native of Logan, Kansas. “Our women’s basketball program has a rich tradition of championships and postseason play across multiple eras and I look forward to working to get us back to the top of a very competitive league.
Kemper had new-look Herd for his final season. He replaced 95 percent of the previous year’s scoring and 85 percent of its rebounding from the previous year. He served on the Sun Belt Women’s Basketball Strategic Planning Committee. He led the Herd to the second round of the WBI postseason tournament in 2019.
“We are very fortunate that Coach Kemper has a history at Central Arkansas,” said Dr. Brad Teague, athletic director at the school. “His desire to come home to Conway resonated throughout the interview process. His valuable experience as a head coach at an NCAA Division I university in two separate conferences was a major factor in our decision.”
Kemper, his wife Sandra, sons Brayden and Landry and daughter Jolie, will take part in a meet and greet next week at Central Arkansas. Sandra Kemper is a professor in the communication disorders department at Marshall.
Rushing stepped down Saturday. She finished with 184 career wins at Central Arkansas, second-most in school history. She had 587 wins in 34 years as a head coach. She took the Sugar Bears to the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and 2017 and finished second in the 2018 WBI postseason tournament. They lost to Yale in the title game. Rushing’s teams on the Southland Conference regular season in 2016 and 2017, going 54-9 overall in that span. They set the school NCAA Division I record with 28 wins in 2015-16, which ties the overall mark for wins in a season.