UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State and Vice President of Athletics Sandy Barbour have selected Carolyn Kieger as the sixth head coach of the women's basketball program. Kieger (pronounced KEE-ger), a 2019 Naismith Women's Coach of the Year Award semifinalist, guided Marquette University to the top of the Big East Conference and three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances as the Golden Eagles' head coach.
Kieger's employment contract is subject to approval by the Committee on Compensation of the Penn State Board of Trustees. The committee is scheduled to meet late Thursday afternoon, April 4.
A public welcome celebration and introductory press conference are planned for Friday, April 12, at noon inside the Bryce Jordan Center basketball practice facility. More details will be announced in the coming days.
Kieger, a 2006 Marquette graduate, comes to Happy Valley after five years at the helm of her alma mater, posting a 99-64 overall record. During the past three seasons, Kieger led the Golden Eagles to a sparkling 76-26 mark (43-11 in Big East), which included a pair of Big East regular-season championships and a Big East Tournament Championship. Marquette made three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in 20 years, advancing to the round of 32 the past two seasons.
"We are thrilled to have Carolyn Kieger joining the Penn State family as the leader of our women's basketball program," said Barbour. "Carolyn has rapidly established herself as one of the nation's premier head coaches, leading Marquette to two Big East Championships, a Big East Tournament title and three NCAA Tournaments in the past three years. During her tenure as the head coach at Marquette and an assistant at Miami (Fla.), Carolyn has demonstrated the ability to recruit and develop outstanding young women on and off the court, including the last two Big East Player of the Year recipients.
"We are excited about the expertise, passion, compassion, leadership and enthusiasm Carolyn will bring to our program and its students, and to her engagement with recruits, our Lady Lion alumni and fans in returning Penn State to a position of competing for championships, with continued academic achievement and community impact."
"I would like to thank Marquette University for five more amazing years," said Kieger. "It's been an honor and a privilege to serve my alma mater as your women's basketball coach. President (Michael) Lovell, Director of Athletics Bill Scholl, the staff, fans and especially the student-athletes have been amazing to work with. I want to thank you for all that you have given to Marquette women's basketball over the last five years. My mission when returning to Marquette was to get women's basketball back on top in the Big East Conference and our players, staff and administration gave everything they had day-in and day-out to do so. After three Big East Conference championships I'm thankful we were able to leave our Marq."
"As a competitor, you want to challenge yourself to become your very best and to compete at the highest level and for a chance to win national championships every season," continued Kieger. "I'm thrilled for the next challenge of my career to compete for national championships as a part of the Penn State family, and I am incredibly grateful to President Barron and Sandy Barbour for this opportunity. I'm excited to build upon the Penn State women's basketball legacy. Penn State has a rich tradition and I look forward to doing my part to enhance that tradition and bring the program back to national prominence. My staff and I will work relentlessly to help our student-athletes become the best people, students and players they can be and through that process we will win at the highest level."
Widely regarded as one of the nation's brightest and rising coaching stars, Kieger's first Marquette team in 2014-15 won nine games. She proceeded to lead the Golden Eagles to 14, 25, 24 and a program-record 27 victories over the next four seasons.
Kieger was named a semifinalist for the 2019 Naismith Women's Coach of the Year Award after leading the Golden Eagles to one of the best seasons in program history this past season. Marquette captured its second consecutive, but first-ever outright Big East regular-season title and a posted a school-best 27-8 record. The Golden Eagles were ranked in every Associated Press poll of the season for the first time in school history.
Marquette earned its third-straight NCAA Tournament berth in 2018-19, advancing to the second round for the second consecutive year. The Golden Eagles garnered a No. 5 seed and defeated Rice before dropping a two-point decision at No. 4 seed Texas A&M in the second round. The three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances were Marquette's first since a three-year run from 1997-99.
Kieger mentored Allazia Blockton and Natisha Hiedeman to become Marquette's first-ever Big East Players of the Year in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively. Kieger coached nine All-Big East selections in the last three seasons.
The 2017-18 campaign was another banner year as Kieger was named Big East Co-Coach of the Year after guiding the Golden Eagles to a program-record 15-3 conference mark and their first-ever Big East regular season title. Kieger earned her first NCAA Tournament coaching victory with a first-round win over Dayton before falling at No. 1 seed Louisville.
Kieger coached Marquette to new heights in 2016-17 as the Golden Eagles won the Big East Tournament title for the first time in program history, while also earning a program-best No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. She directed MU to the Big Dance for the first time since 2011. Kieger led Marquette to a 25-8 record in 2016-17, finishing with a 6-0 mark against teams ranked in the Top 25.
In her second year at the helm of the Golden Eagles, Kieger had the youngest program in NCAA Division I with eight freshmen on the roster in 2015-16, as MU improved its win total by five games. She made her collegiate head coaching debut on Nov. 15, 2014 against Green Bay and earned her first career victory on Nov. 17, 2014 when Marquette defeated Loyola-Chicago.
Prior to being named head coach at her alma mater, Kieger spent six seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Miami from 2008-14. Following graduation, she was at Miami as the coordinator of basketball operations (2006-07) and then served as director of operations at Marquette in 2007-08.
Kieger returned to Miami as an assistant coach in 2008-09 and was primarily responsible for guard development with the Hurricanes. She helped advance the skills of Miami guard Shenise Johnson, who earned All-America and ACC Player of the Year honors in 2010-11, while the squad was crowned ACC regular-season champions. She also helped guard Riquna Williams earn All-ACC first team accolades and finish as the ACC scoring leader with 21.7 points per game. Miami made three NCAA Tournament appearances and two in the WNIT during Kieger's last five seasons with the Hurricanes.
Kieger was a four-year starter at Marquette, a three-year captain and is MU's all-time assists leader. She is the only player in program history with at least 1,200 career points, 400 career rebounds and 600 assists. Kieger averaged 10.3 points per game during her career and was a second-team All-Big East selection in 2005-06, as well as, a second-team All-Conference USA selection for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons.
During her senior campaign, Kieger was a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award, presented to the nation's top point guard. In addition to her athletic accomplishments, Kieger received the Big East Conference's Sportsmanship award as a senior.
A native of Roseville, Minnesota, Kieger graduated Cum Laude from Marquette with a bachelor's degree in broadcasting and electronic communications in 2006. She received the McCahill Award in 2007, presented to a graduated MU senior student-athlete who demonstrated the highest performance in scholarship, leadership and athletics.