Replacing Dave Krauth no easy task for Augustana
Who might be on the list? Vikings are looking for new women's basketball coach for the first time in more than 30 years.
SIOUX FALLS — The last time Augustana was in the market for a women's basketball coach, Bobby Brown, Paula Abdul, Phil Collins and Debbie Gibson were dominating the pop charts. George Bush (the first one) had just been sworn in as president. Every house had a landline and a VCR.
It was 1989. Yeah, it's been awhile.
That, of course, is because the tenure of Dave Krauth, hired that year as Augustana's fourth coach in five seasons, proved legendary. He spent 34 years at the helm, won over 650 games, took the Vikings to 16 NCAA tournaments, and finally retired after this season.
Josh Morton has been the Vikings' athletic director since the spring of 2018, and after inheriting a staff of reliable veteran coaches is now tasked with his second major hire in less than a year.
First was Garrett Raboin, who was chosen to launch the Vikings' fledgling Division I hockey team. Now Augie needs a new leader for a women's basketball team that's been arguably the department's most successful program, a point of pride in the history of Augustana and a significant piece of South Dakota's rich women's basketball tradition.
Who might the Vikings be targeting? They've had at least six months to seek out candidates, since Krauth informed the school of his retirement before the 2022-23 season, and chances are they already have their next coach in place and an announcement is forthcoming.
Still, it's fun to speculate about who might be in the running or who might be a good fit.
Will the Vikings look for someone with prior ties or connections to the program? Someone from in-state? Is previous head coach experience a must? Or might they be looking for the up-and-coming assistant coach that the state's D-I schools have prioritized in recent hires?
Another interesting angle — the Vikings still, ostensibly, hope to one day take their program to the Division I level. The addition of men's hockey has put those plans on the backburner, and it's possible the school will ultimately decide to keep their non-hockey programs in the NSIC and go with the hybrid model used by St. Cloud State, Minnesota State Mankato, Minnesota Duluth, etc.
But the Summit League, currently sitting at 10 teams, rarely goes long without losing members, and when the next domino inevitably falls, the Vikings could be the solution (whether SDSU fans want them or not).
That might make the Augie job more attractive to potential candidates. Could they steal a head coach from a rival Division II school? The pull of a D-I move could help, as could the promise of coaching in Sioux Falls, a more desirable location than many D-II and D-I jobs on multiple levels.
Here are some names we're throwing out there, in no particular order.
Chelsea Stoltenberg, Bemidji State head coach
The former Chelsea DeVille is a Watertown native, former Viking standout under Krauth, and a beloved figure in the NSIC and her home state. She got her on-the-job training under USF head coach and former Krauth assistant Travis Traphagen and has now been the head coach at Bemidji State for eight seasons.
Her record (65-140) is not a good one, but the program was at the bottom when Stoltenberg took over, and she's put it on steadier footing. When she led the Beavers to a 10-6 mark in the pandemic-shortened 2021 season, she was named NSIC North Division coach of the year for the effort.
Travis Traphagen, USF head coach
Speaking of Trap, you can't make a list of possible Krauth successors without including him. Perhaps the best and most active assistant Krauth ever had, Traphagen went across town to USF to take over a Cougar program that was mediocre by NAIA standards, got them to the national tournament, and then guided them into the transition to Division II, where they've been a regular contender and two-time NCAA tournament qualifier.
Had Krauth hung it up 10 years ago, this would feel like a no-brainer. And it still makes sense. But the Vikings may not want to go that direction, now. Traphagen is an encyclopedia of area girls and women's basketball, though; there's little doubt he'd be successful in the role, even at the D-I level.
Katie Bourk, Augustana assistant
Bourk has been Krauth's loyal sidekick since 2011, first as a grad assistant and for the last 10 years as a full-time assistant. Heavily involved in recruiting and gameplanning, Bourk knows the NSIC inside and out and has visibly grown as a leader and communicator. She's ready to be a head coach.
Kim Wagers, Concordia (Minn.) head coach
A former UMD Bulldog player, Wagers was just named the Division III region coach of the year and MIAC coach of the year after leading the Cobbers to a 22-5 season, their most wins since 1990. She's been their head coach for four seasons.
Laurie Kelly, Gustavus Adolphus head coach
The Gusties have had back to back 26-3 seasons under Kelly, a veteran coach who's had success at the Division I (Northern Arizona), Division II (Binghamton) and Division III levels (Gustavus).
She was a three-time All-American player at St. Thomas and the 1993 national player of the year, then guided Binghamton through a transition to Division I and is NAU's all-time winningest women's coach. She also spent time as an assistant at MSU-Mankato.
Emilee Thiesse, MSU-Mankato head coach
This South Dakota native (Spearfish) has taken the Mavericks to four NCAA tournaments since 2013 and had only two losing seasons in that time. She's the sister of Nebraska (and former USD) coach Amy Williams, the daughter of former Spearfish and Madison coach Tim Gusso and a former SDSU assistant under Aaron Johnston and also spent three years at Drake.
Would she have interest in returning to South Dakota? Mankato is arguably the best program in the NSIC, so the hunch here is it would take a lot to pull her away.
Carissa Thielbar, South Dakota State assistant
SDSU's top assistant has been with Aaron Johnston for nine years. She'd likely be a candidate to replace AJ if he ever left, but as the recent University of Minnesota situation suggests, AJ may not ever get an opportunity to move up (assuming he wanted to). Either way, Thielbar might be looking for her first shot at running a team.
Thielbar has been in the NSIC before as an assistant at Wayne State, and her husband, Twins pitcher Caleb Thielbar, has been the on-again, off-again pitching coach for Augustana, so there's an obvious connection there.
Carrie Eighmey, Nebraska-Kearney head coach
Just took the Lopers to the D-I NCAA tournament for the third year in a row, won MIAA coach of the year and was a finalist for Division II coach of the year. She's 165-77 in eight years at UNK after going 68-31 in three years at NAIA Hastings of the GPAC, which included a trip to the Final Four. She also played at Hastings, back when they were in the same conference as USF, so she's familiar with the area.
Mandy Pearson, Minnesota Duluth head coach
I've heard from some around the program that Pearson is the fans choice. Well, good luck. Pearson has done unbelievable work with the Bulldogs, and Duluth is one of the best places to coach in the NSIC. They're currently in the Division II Final Four, taking a 31-3 record into Wednesday's national semifinal against Catawba College. Win and they're in the natty.
They've won NSIC regular season or conference titles in each of the last five seasons and lost just six conference games in the last four years.
With that kind of success, Pearson should have D-I aspirations and D-I offers. But if none come her way, perhaps the Vikings could use their own Division I aspirations as a way to get her interested.