ALUMNUS Spring 2022 - Mississippi State University

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This spring, Mississippi State Director of Athletics John Cohen had work to do. The end of the MSU men’s and women’s basketball seasons ushered in a pair of openings for Cohen to fill. Both teams were turning the page and looking for new head coaches. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Cohen was ready—as he always is. He knew exactly what he was looking for. “At Mississippi State, I think one of the most important factors in a hire is the fit, because we are different,” Cohen explained. “I think we’re different in a good way, but somebody has to have an appreciation for who we are.” Inside a short stretch of time in midMarch, Cohen revealed his choices, and it was a pair of men who indeed appear to be the perfect fits to begin exciting new chapters for State’s basketball programs. One of the country’s most decorated assistant coaches, Sam Purcell, was hired from Louisville to take over the Mississippi State women’s team. Chris Jans – among the nation’s most successful sitting head coaches—was brought in after guiding New Mexico State the last five years. Both Purcell and Jans boast impressive resumes. Both are highly respected by their peers. Now both are Bulldogs and both seem poised to lead MSU to new heights.


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Purcell was the first of the two new head coaches to become a Bulldog. He was officially named the head coach of the women’s program March 12. “During our search, Sam Purcell routinely emerged as one of the nation’s elite recruiters and more importantly, a terrific fit to lead our program,” Cohen said. "Sam has been an integral part of some of the most successful teams in women’s basketball. He is creative, meticulous and has a proven ability to recruit the nation’s top talent and develop student-athletes. Sam is synonymous with the Mississippi State culture and understands the deep meaning of family. We are confident he will elevate every facet of our program.” Purcell brings with him 19 years of women’s basketball coaching experience. And it’s not just any kind of experience. It’s a track record of tremendous success. In fact, Purcell has come from the NCAA Final Four to Mississippi State. He helped lead Louisville to within two wins of a national title this past season. It was just the latest notch in his belt. Purcell spent nine seasons at Louisville and helped build the Cardinals into one of the country’s premier programs. In the last five years, with Purcell serving as an associate coach, Louisville racked up the third-most wins in the nation behind only Connecticut and Baylor. All told, Purcell and the Cardinals played in the NCAA Tournament every season the event was held and reached two Final Fours, five Elite Eights and six Sweet 16s. Aside from Purcell’s coaching ability, all the winning from his teams was built on a foundation of recruiting and player development. During Purcell’s Louisville tenure, he had 10 players selected in the WNBA Draft. Six were picked from 2019-21, tied for the most draft picks from one school over that stretch. On the recruiting trail, Purcell has a knack for connecting with elite prospects. He’s landed the nation’s top overall recruit on two separate occasions and with two different programs–first in 2013 while at Georgia Tech, then in 2015 at Louisville. With the Cardinals, all nine of the signing classes Purcell helped secure were ranked among the top 15 in the nation by ESPN.