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Holli Howard-Carpenter, right, has been named the head coach of the Western Oregon University women’s basketball program.
June 12, 2013
MONMOUTH -- Coaching, at least in Holli Howard-Carpenter's mind, has always been a career goal.
Three years of teaching high school just cemented the idea.
"I've always kind of known that I wanted to be a coach," the former player at California State University, Hayward -- now Cal State East Bay -- said. "I first went into teaching, but I was too competitive for the high school level," she added with a laugh.
"After that, I realized I could do coaching as a full-time job."
After seven seasons as a college assistant, the 33-year-old finds herself finally at the helm: as Western Oregon University's seventh head women's basketball coach, announced June 4 by interim Athletic Director Jon Carey.
Howard-Carpenter takes over for Greg Bruce, who retired at the end of the 2012-13 season after seven years as head coach.
She admits she wasn't really looking to leave her position as associate head coach at her alma mater, but there was a job out there that she tended to keep her eye on.
"Western Oregon was kind of one of those jobs that I looked at at the end of the season to see if it was open," she said. "I love the area ... I had been to campus once before, and I thought it was a place where I would want to live and coach."
Howard-Carpenter played two seasons at Cal State East Bay, where she still holds the record for 3-pointers (seven) in a single game.
There, she helped turn around a program from near rock-bottom to a California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) contender, as the Pioneers won 16 games in 2012-13, their best record (16-11) since the 2005-06 season.
Prior to her time at East Bay, Howard-Carpenter spent four seasons as an assistant at a perennial winner in fellow CCAA member Chico State, where she helped guide the Wildcats to four CCAA Tournament appearances and three NCAA Division II women's championship tournament berths.
Needless to say, Howard-Carpenter has been on both sides of the coin -- and she'll need that experience at WOU.
She takes over a Wolves' team that finished 8-20 overall and 3-15 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, good for last place.
"With the experience that I've gained at both East Bay and Chico State, I just feel like I'm prepared. I'm ready," Howard-Carpenter, who grew up in Weed, Calif. -- about 70 miles from Ashland -- said of her first head-coaching job.
"I know there's going to be challenges, ups and downs, but that's going to be anywhere I go. I wouldn't do something if I thought it was going to be easy."
There's no full-time assistant in the WOU budget for women's basketball. And coupled with the challenges of recruiting with a substandard scholarship amount -- compared to the rest of the GNAC -- those are just a couple of the roadblocks ahead.
That, and winning.
The Wolves haven't had a .500 or better record since the 2000-01 season, when they finished 15-12 under former coach Tim Hills.
"I know what everyone has said about the job -- `That you don't have any money and how are you going to compete with these other schools that have so much money?'" Howard-Carpenter said. "To me, they're challenges, but they're not limitations and you can't use them as an excuse. You just have to be more creative -- whether it's in fundraising or how you recruit.
"... I think it's just about being creative with what you have."
Howard-Carpenter, who also played two years of softball at Cal State East Bay before graduating in 2002, also competed for two seasons in both basketball and softball at College of the Siskiyous in Weed.
Before taking her position at Chico State, she spent four years teaching and coaching high school basketball at Orland High and Willows High, both located in California.