The Sam Purcell era is here for MSU women’s hoops

Sam Purcell arrives in Starkville via jet.

A new era of coaching has begun in the Mississippi State University women’s basketball program.

After a season of tumultuous events, the Bulldogs have announced they are hiring Sam Purcell as their new head coach for the women’s basketball program.

Prior to being hired, Purcell was the associate coach for the Louisville Cardinals, where he has played a significant part in the team’s recruiting and coaching under the Cardinal’s head coach Jeff Walz.

Purcell is expected to remain with Louisville during the team’s post-season run in the NCAA tournament, after which he will begin his duties as the Bulldogs' new head coach.

In a recent press conference, Athletic Director John Cohen cited Purcell as a top candidate for the job during the team’s coaching search because of his leadership and recruiting abilities.

“Sam has been an integral part of some of the most successful teams in women's basketball,” Cohen said. “He is creative, meticulous and has shown a proven ability to recruit the nation's top talent and develop student-athletes.”

In the same media appearance, Purcell himself stated his excitement about taking the head coaching job. He is committed to bringing the women’s basketball team back to its heights.

"I'm honored and humbled to be the head women's basketball coach at (MSU), and I am appreciative to John Cohen and the entire university administration for this opportunity," Purcell said. "The Purcell family is thrilled to be coming to Starkville, and we can't wait to meet the team and the entire Bulldog Family. (MSU) women's basketball is synonymous with winning, and I fully intend to continue that winning culture. Hail State!"

The hiring of Purcell comes after a season full of twists and turns for the women’s basketball team here at MSU. 

The Bulldogs’ original head coach, Nikki McCray-Penson, stepped down earlier this season due to health concerns. After her resignation, assistant coach Doug Novak became the interim coach, leading the Bulldogs to a record of 15-14 overall, including finishing 6-10 in SEC play.

In addition to their coaching, the Bulldogs have also suffered from losses on the team’s roster.

Forward Rickea Jackson, who was the SEC’s leading scorer, entered the transfer portal back in January. Forward Denea Carter also suffered a season-ending ACL tear, leaving the Bulldogs with only seven available players during the season.

Going into next season, Purcell will have a lot of pieces on the roster to utilize. Jerkaila Jordan, Jessika Carter and Denea Carter are all set to return at the moment, in addition to a couple of newcomers, including Michigan State transfer Alyza Winston and signee Debreashea Powe. 

Anastasia Hayes and Myah Taylor could also return if they decide to use their final year of eligibility remaining. If they do, the Bulldogs could be brewing something serious in Starkville under Purcell, and a tournament appearance could potentially happen sooner rather than later.

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