Winning. Success. Results.
As Rick Insell enters his fifth season as Middle Tennessee's head women's basketball coach in 2009-10, he has instilled these qualities and many more throughout each aspect of the program, from the student-athletes to the University administration to the support staff to the community.
When Insell was introduced as the seventh head coach in program history in May 2005, he told a packed house that his hire proves "dreams come true", during his press conference. In four years, he is establishing a track record unlike any other in Middle Tennessee's rich women's basketball history, while also creating further lofty expectations by taking the program to the next level.
"I'm a coach and it's all I've ever done, from elementary to junior high to junior pro, AAU and high school," Insell said at the press conference. "To be able to come on board at Middle Tennessee, that's a dream come true. It says if you stay in there long enough and dream big enough, one day it will eventually happen."
Winning. No coach in school history has won as often and as much as Insell has in four years. He coached his 100th game on the sidelines in the season-opening win against Lafayette in the Preseason WNIT. By the time the campaign was over, Insell registered his 100th win as the Blue Raiders captured the Sun Belt Tournament Championship over UALR. He reached the century mark faster than any other coach in program history, doing so in 15 fewer games.
Insell enters his fifth season with an impressive 100-33 (.752) overall record, but when it comes to Sun Belt games, it is even more remarkable with a 59-9 (.868) regular-season ledger. He guided the Blue Raiders to a perfect 18-0 Sun Belt mark in 2006-07 and nearly pulled off the feat again last season, earning a 17-1 conference record.
He has added a pair of Sun Belt regular-season championships and three Sun Belt Tournament titles to his mantle. The three tournament crowns have led to NCAA Tournament appearances, and with a Postseason WNIT berth two years ago, has put Insell-led teams in the postseason in each of his four seasons.
The Blue Raiders have won at least 20 contests in each of his four years, including a school-record 30 during the 2006-07 campaign, which saw them own the nation's longest winning streak at 27 games and not losing for over 100 days.
Success. He has coached two WNBA selections while at Middle Tennessee. Amber Holt was selected ninth overall by the Connecticut Sun in 2008 and Chrissy Givens was picked 31st overall by the Phoenix Mercury in 2007.
The pair joins Alysha Clark, a senior on this year's team, as All-Americans under his watch. Clark became the second-straight Lady Raider to lead the nation in scoring, as she posted a school-record 27.5 points per game average in her first season at MT last winter. Holt averaged 27.4 ppg in 2007-08, making Middle Tennessee the first women's program in NCAA history to have two different players lead the country in scoring in consecutive seasons. Clark (935 points) and Holt (930 points) rank fifth and sixth, respectively, on the NCAA single-season scoring list.
Insell has tutored a player in the nation's top 10 in scoring a remarkable 86 of a possible 93 NCAA reporting dates since he took over the program, with 61 of the 86 in the top five. Overall, MT has had a player in the top-10 national leaders for 71 consecutive NCAA reporting periods, dating back to Jan. 18, 2007.
As a team, Middle Tennessee has ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring offense and steals per game in each of Insell's four seasons. The Blue Raiders were second in the country last year for 3-pointers made per game after finishing fourth in each of the previous two campaigns.
The Blue Raiders have earned a national reputation for not being afraid to play any opponent. Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime. That is the mantra Insell and his program employs and may be one of his biggest impacts on the program. Evidence of that mindset can be found last year, when MT faced four opponents who were ranked or received votes in the national polls, including eventual national runner-up (then-No. 13) Louisville at home and at then-No. 2 Oklahoma, a Final Four participant.
Middle Tennessee also made its first trip to Baton Rouge, La., to face LSU and defeated the Tigers for the second-straight campaign. On Dec. 28, 2007, the Blue Raiders pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the nation defeating then-No. 8 LSU inside the Murphy Center, 67-56, in front of the second-largest crowd in school history (7,858).
The squad has also knocked off then-No. 8 Georgia on the road, 70-62, during the 2006-07 season and welcomed defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Maryland to the Murphy Center for the 2006-07 season opener.
Other notable national programs who have been on the slate since the Insell era began include Penn State, Virginia, Minnesota, Old Dominion, Arizona, Indiana, Alabama, Kentucky and South Dakota State.
Middle Tennessee has won the Sun Belt Tournament three times in his four seasons, advancing to the NCAA Tournament each time. In 2007, the Blue Raiders earned their first NCAA Tournament victory under his guidance with a First Round triumph over Gonzaga. In 2006, MT faced Utah and in 2009, the Lady Raiders battled Michigan State.
The 2007-08 campaign saw the team playing in the Postseason WNIT, defeating Western Carolina in the opening round before falling in overtime at Kentucky.
Results. Middle Tennessee has reached the top 25 rankings twice under his watch, including two appearances in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll in 2008-09. The highest ranking in school history came during the 2006-07 campaign when the Lady Raiders reached an unprecedented height of No. 16 in both the Associated Press and Coaches polls.
No other program in Sun Belt history has won more regular-season conference games over a four-year span than Insell's Blue Raiders. MT has captured 59 wins during the stretch, setting a new conference mark and bettering the Louisiana Tech teams from 1997-98 to 2000-01.
Insell led his team to a 28-6 record a year ago and he captured his second Sun Belt Coach of the Year award along the way. He previously was named the league's best following the 2006-07 campaign.
Last season, the Blue Raiders participated in the Preseason WNIT and matched a school record with a 15-1 (.938) mark inside the Murphy Center. MT has dropped only one home Sun Belt game in his four seasons, compiling a staggering 36-1 (.973) mark. The Lady Raiders won 18 in a row at one point with all but one of the conference wins being by double-digit margins.
In 2007-08, the Holt-led team finished 22-12, including 14-4 in the Sun Belt. The previous season, Insell guided the Blue Raiders to a 30-4 record and their fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and Sun Belt Tournament title, tying school records for both achievements. Insell's first year on the bench, 2005-06, MT posted a 20-11 (10-4 SBC) mark.
Insell's system churns out top scorers, including the top-three single-season leaders in school history in each of the last three years: Clark, 935 (2008-09); Holt, 930 (2007-08); and Givens, 768 (2006-07). Clark will soon pass the 1,000-point plateau at MT, needing just 65 points to reach the mark, to become the 21st player in school history in the club. She already has over 2,000 points for her career. Three players - Givens, Tia Stovall and Krystle Horton - all joined the 1,000-point brigade during his first season becoming the first set of three players to join the prestigious list in the same year.
His mark has also been noticed on the recruiting trail. His first class was ranked No. 10 nationally and included current players Brandi Brown, Chelsia Lymon and Jackie Pickel. This year's five-player class, all hailing from Tennessee, was rated as high as No. 27 by ESPN HoopGurlz and No. 38 by Blue Star Basketball's Chris Mennig.
His other significant impact has been attendance at home games. Middle Tennessee led the nation in increased attendance percentage in 2005-06, drawing 2,699 fans per game, a 276 percent increase over the previous season. A single-game school record 10,010 passed through the turnstiles for the Maryland season opener the next year, ranking among the top 50 nation-wide for a 2006-07 game.
The Blue Raiders are consistently ranked among the top 35 programs nationally in attendance, after an average of 3,534 turned out for the 16 home games this past season to rank No. 33 in the country.
Middle Tennessee has also given back to the community during his tenure, holding a pair of jersey auctions of the team's pink uniforms as part of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Pink Zone initiative. The auctions raised over $18,000 each time with the money split and given to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund and Middle Tennessee Medical Center.
The Blue Raiders are also active in the community, participating in the March of Dimes walk, assisting with Habitat for Humanity and tutoring local elementary school students.
Insell serves on the WBCA's committee for the Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year Award. His term on the committee runs through 2011.
He also paired with former Riverdale High School coach Micheal Burt in co-authoring a book entitled The Anatomy of Winning - How to REWIRE People to Win. The book was released March 1, 2009, as the Blue Raiders closed the regular season with a home victory against Western Kentucky on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS).
A 1977 Middle Tennessee graduate, Insell built a high school girl's basketball dynasty at nearby Shelbyville Central High School, just a 30-minute drive from the MT campus. He guided the Golden Eaglettes to a record 10 Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA) Class 3A state championships and two USA Today national championships (1989, 1991), compiling a sparkling 775-148 (84.0 percent) ledger during his 28-year tenure.
He was named the USA Today National High School Coach of the Year following both national titles and also was tabbed the Converse National High School Coach of the Year in 1990 and 1992. A name synonymous with high school girl's basketball in the state, Insell's teams hold the Tennessee state records for consecutive wins (110), consecutive state titles with four (1989-92) and most state championships for a coach with 10 (1986-89-90-91-92-95-2000-01-03-04). The 110 straight triumphs are seventh in the national record books.
His 1990 Golden Eaglette squad was selected as the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Team of the Year, the first high school team to be recognized.
Insell was elected to the National High School Hall of Fame in February 2007 and was one of 12 members of the 2007 class. He is one of only six Tennesseans, including just the fourth coach, elected to the hall of fame.
Shelbyville Central won 23 district championships, 16 regional titles and appeared in the Class 3A state championship game a remarkable 15 times during his career at the school. He developed six Tennessee Class 3A Miss Basketball award recipients, 15 high school All-Americans and 57 of his players either received athletic or academic scholarships to continue their careers at the collegiate level.
The Woodbury, Tenn., native's first hall of fame honor came in 2003 when he was elected to the TSSAA Hall of Fame. His 775 career victories at Shelbyville Central ranks him 19th in the nation and fifth in the state in the all-time high school charts.
Additionally, Insell's Shelbyville Central team received a special invitation to the Oval Office by President George H. W. Bush for academic and athletic achievement. His teams have also been honored in the United States Senate and House of Representatives, the Tennessee State Senate and House of Representatives and by two Tennessee governors.
On the court success is not the only concern of Insell, as he has made sure his players get the job done in the classroom as well. His Shelbyville Central teams received the TSSAA Distinguished Award for Academic Success from 1989-2000, an award based on team grade point average. The lowest cumulative GPA during that timeframe was 3.4 and the highest was 3.98.
Insell's success during his time at Shelbyville Central was not limited to high school. He won three AAU national championships (1988, 1998 and 2004). He was the first coach of the Kodak High School All-American Game in 1992 and served as coach of the South Team at the 2002 Olympic Festival, the first Youth Development Festival by USA Basketball.
Insell is married to the former Deborah Spry of Woodbury, Tenn. The couple has three sons - Tom, Kyle and Matt. Tom is married to the former Sarah Stewart of Shelbyville.