In her second season at Virginia Commonwealth, Marlene Stollings finally put a name to it: “Fury.’’ That word perfectly described the fast-paced, high-scoring style that formed the cornerstone of her basketball life, from her days as an Ohio prep star to her fledgling career as a head coach.
Stollings will have to come up with a new catch phrase when she takes the rudder of the Gophers’ women’s basketball program. But judging from her history, the team’s new head coach will likely bring her affinity for a run-and-gun identity with her. The Gophers announced Stollings’ hiring Monday and will introduce her Tuesday as the 11th coach in the program’s history, 11 days after Pam Borton was fired to end a 12-year run.
Stollings signed a six-year contract that will pay a base of $350,000 in 2014-15 and increase by at least $17,500 each year. There are incentive bonuses that will pay from $5,000-$100,000 plus an annual $75,000 for media, fundraising and community involvement.
VCU’s website describes “Fury’’ as “a high-powered, high-scoring, relentless, disciplined and fun style of play.’’ The Rams went 22-10 last season in Stollings’ second year, averaging a school-record 75.8 points per game and scoring 90 or more in five games en route to becoming one of the nation’s most improved programs.
She employed a similar style in her lone season as head coach at Winthrop, earning honors as Big South Conference coach of the year after the Eagles established a school scoring record while finishing 18-13. As a senior at Ohio University in 1998, Stollings averaged 22.9 points per game — ranking eighth in Division I — and remains the top scorer in Ohio high school history with 3,514 points, topping even LeBron James.
Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague made a nod toward her fast and furious brand of basketball in a statement Monday. “Marlene Stollings is one of the most respected young coaches in the country and we are thrilled to have her leading the Minnesota women’s basketball program,” Teague said. “Her up-tempo style, ability to recruit the nation’s best talent and successful track record are undeniable. I am excited for our student-athletes and fans, as Marlene will bring an energetic style of basketball to Williams Arena.”
Stollings said in a statement: “I am extremely proud to be named the head coach at the University of Minnesota. I want to thank President Eric Kaler and Director of Athletics Norwood Teague for believing in my vision for the future of this storied program and for giving me this opportunity. Minnesota has great tradition and I cannot wait to be part of it. I am looking forward to meeting the team and great fans of Gopher basketball.”
After going 11-19 in Stollings’ first season, VCU doubled its victory total in 2013-14, the 12th-largest increase in Division I. The Rams’ prolific offense — and an effective 2-3 zone defense — helped them get off to the best start in program history (15-2) and compile a school-record 13-game winning streak.
In her previous jobs, Stollings has earned a reputation for developing guards, being a good teacher of the game and placing a high priority on creating an entertaining style that attracts fans. With the Gophers, she will inherit one of the country’s top guards, Rachel Banham. Banham finished her junior season as the leading scorer in the Big Ten with 23.3 points per game in league play and was named an All-America honorable mention by the Associated Press and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
Sunday night, Stollings emerged as the leading candidate for the Gophers’ job. She has ties to Teague through VCU, where he served as athletic director before taking the same position with the Gophers. Teague already had come north when Stollings was hired at VCU in June 2012, but two associates who later joined him in Minnesota — David Benedict and Mike Ellis — were the top two officials in VCU’s athletic department at the time she got the job.
She has a reputation as a short-timer. In her 14-year coaching career, Stollings has worked at eight schools, and the Gophers will be her third stop in a head coaching career that began in 2011. She served as an associate head coach for one season at Mississippi after three seasons as an assistant, and she was interim head coach at New Mexico State in 2002-03 after one season as an assistant. She also was an assistant coach at St. Louis, Wright State and Jacksonville (Fla.).
In her only season at Winthrop, Stollings had only nine healthy players for much of the season but still led the team to the second winning record in school history. The Eagles averaged a program-record 69.6 points per game and ranked 10th in the nation in three-point field goals with 7.6 per game.