Jeff Harada has been named the new head women’s basketball coach at Central Washington University. CWU Athletics Director Dennis Francois today announced the hiring of Harada who, for the past three seasons, has been an assistant coach at the United States Naval Academy.
“I’m very grateful and humbled to be the next coach of the women’s basketball program,” Harada said. “I look forward to leading this program and putting a product on the floor that the university and Ellensburg community can be proud of."
Francois added, “We’re extremely excited for the future of our women's basketball program under Coach Harada’s leadership. His track record and his experience at the Naval Academy speak to his belief in the student-athlete experience, knowing that the student part of the equation comes first.”
Navy went to the post season during each of Harada’s seasons serving on the bench. The team went 24-8 last year and earned a bid into the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. That followed back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament.
Previously, he was the head women’s coach at Hawai'i Pacific University (HPU), where he took over a team that had won only two games during the season before his arrival.
“Having gone through the process of building a program before, combined with what I’ve learned from my time at Navy, gives me the confidence that I can do it again,” Harada said.
During his tenure at HPU, the Sea Warriors won 58 games, including taking 36 of the 50 games played over his final two seasons there. In 2010, Harada’s team won its first Pacific West Conference title, advancing to its first NCAA Division II Tournament. Harada was tabbed as the conference coach of the year that season.
“Being a former DII coach in the west region, I’m familiar with the league and know how competitive and how tough the GNAC (Great Northwest Athletic Conference) is,” Harada pointed out. “But I think there is no reason why Central shouldn’t be right there competing for a GNAC title.”
Francois noted, “We have high expectations and I’m confident in his ability to develop a culture of winning here, both on and off the court.”
A native of Honolulu, Harada, who lettered in basketball, baseball, and volleyball in high school, says he looks forward to a return to the West Coast.
“A lot of my friends, a lot of my contacts are still involved in coaching and in basketball there,” he added. “My recruiting niche is the West Coast and it’s the area I’ve specialized in [for Navy]. I think that will play a major factor in being able to recruit the kind of players we will need to be successful.”
Francois agreed, saying, “Coach Harada’s familiarity with the West Coast and Pacific Northwest, in terms of recruiting the brightest and best student-athletes, will be highly beneficial.”
Harada began his coaching career at his alma mater, the University of Colorado, as a volunteer assistant. He later became the team’s director of operations. In addition, he was an assistant coach for the HPU men’s program before taking over the women’s team.
Francois said, “I believe seeing the game from the men's side, at different institutions and different levels, brings a perspective that will not only benefit our basketball program, but also benefit our athletic department, Central Washington University, and the Ellensburg community.”
Harada added, “I would like to thank [CWU] President [James L.] Gaudino, Athletic Director Dennis Francois, the search committee, athletic department staff, and the university. The vision for the women's basketball program at Central, and for athletics as a whole, is very evident and I'm extremely excited to be a part of that.”
Harada, who will start his new position in June, succeeds Shawn Nelson, who resigned after three seasons.
What they’re saying about coach Harada:
“What makes him a great coach is his desire to win and his broad knowledge and great understanding of the student-athlete experience, the team, the coaching staff—all the moving parts that happen within a college women’s basketball program. Jeff will work hard and find a way to make things happen. He has a nice ability to get through to players and they play for him. He'll be a positive presence in the CWU athletic department and he'll represent the university with class.”
Stefanie Pemper, Navy head women’s basketball coach
“Jeff is an excellent choice for Central. He has been a highly successful head coach at the NCAA DII level and, most recently, gained valuable experience at the DI level. He is an outstanding coach and person, and I’m confident he will raise the bar for Central.”
Hawaii Pacific University head men’s basketball coach Darren Vorderbruegge, who was also the HPU athletic director when Harada coached there.
Media contact: Robert Lowery, CWU Athletics, 509-899-0235, firstname.lastname@example.org
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