Rick Insell made a huge splash in his first year at the helm of the Middle Tennessee women's basketball program.
Insell can now drop the title "former high school coach" and add Head Coach of the 2006 Sun Belt Tournament champions, as he led the Blue Raiders to their third consecutive tournament title. He directed one of the most thrilling comebacks in Sun Belt Tournament history, leading Middle Tennessee to an 84-73 win over Western Kentucky after being down by as much as 14 in the first half.
His first year also saw Insell bring in a Top-10 recruiting class for the 2006-07 season, and lead Middle Tennessee to an unprecedented third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. Insell also developed one of the most prolific scorers for a single season in school history as Chrissy Givens exploded for 667 points, which ranks her second in the all-time scoring list for a season, and makes her just one of five players to score 600 or more points as Blue Raider. Entering the 2005-06 season, Givens had 480 points in her two previous seasons - combined.
The 2005-06 campaign also saw another first in program history as three players - Givens, Tia Stovall and Krystle Horton - on the squad all were part of the 1,000-point club. This marks the first time in school history three current players all were represented on the prestigious list, and the Blue Raiders were one of only four teams in the 2006 NCAA Tournament to boast such an honor.
Middle Tennessee notched one of its biggest wins of the season when the Blue Raiders shocked Big 10 powerhouse Penn State 79-65 in the UAB Blaze Tournament. The Blue Raiders also saw a huge increase in attendance in Insell's first year as Middle Tennessee averaged 2,558 per game an increase of 300 percent from the 2004-05 season.
The legendary Insell, a 1977 graduate of Middle Tennessee, built a dynasty at nearby Shelbyville High School, where he guided the Golden Eaglettes to a record 10 TSSAA Class AAA state championships and two USA Today National Championships (1989, 1991) as he compiled a sparkling 775-148 worksheet during his 28-year tenure. Insell was named USA Today National High School Coach of the Year in 1989 and 1991 and he also has been named Converse National High School Coach of the Year on two occasions (1990, 1992). Insell called the women's basketball position at Middle Tennessee his "dream job".
"Dreams do come true," Insell said. "It's something you think about. I'm a coach and it's all I've ever done, from elementary to junior high to junior pro, AAU and high school. To be able to come on board at Middle Tennessee, a Division I school, that's a dream come true, not only for me, but for all of the high school coaches and junior high coaches across the country and it says if you stay in there long enough and dream big enough, one day it will eventually happen."
Insell said Middle Tennessee will be a pressing basketball team on defense and force the issue, and he added that the Blue Raiders would back down from no one on the recruiting trail.
"We are going after the best players in the state of Tennessee every year," Insell said. "If Tennessee or Vanderbilt is after them then Middle Tennessee is going to be after them, too. We will recruit alongside of them. We are not going to be intimidated, nor will we back down because they are in the Southeastern Conference. We are Division I and they are Division I. We are going to use all of our contacts."
A name synonymous with high school girl's basketball in Tennessee, Insell's teams holds the Tennessee state records for consecutive wins with 110, consecutive state titles with four (1989-1992), most state championships for a coach with 10 (1986, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004), and his 1990 Golden Eaglette squad was named the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Team of the Year, the first high school team so honored.
Under Insell's guidance, Shelbyville High School has won 23 district championships, 16 regional championships and has appeared in the Class AAA state championship game a remarkable 15 times, winning 10. Insell has developed six Tennessee Class AAA Miss Basketball Award recipients, 15 high school All-Americans and 57 of his players have received either athletic or academic scholarships to continue their careers at the collegiate level.
While Insell has built a basketball dynasty at Shelbyville during his time there, he also has made sure his players get the job done in the classroom as evidenced by his teams receiving the TSSAA Distinguished Award for Academic Success from 1989-2000, an award based on team GPA. The lowest cumulative GPA at Shelbyville during this stretch is 3.4 and the highest is 3.98.
Additionally, Insell's Shelbyville team received a special invitation to the Oval Office by President George Bush for academic and athletic achievement and his teams also have been honored in the United States Senate and House of Representatives, the Tennessee State House and Senate and by two Tennessee Governors.
Insell is married to Debbie and the couple have three sons, Tom, Kyle and Matt.