Carlsen awarded Coach of the Year

By Krystal Ward

DeKALB — Lisa Carlsen, women’s basketball head coach, was selected as one of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association’s Division I Coaches of the Year on Monday.

The association recognized coaches at all levels in the NCAA — National Junior College Athletic Association, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, as well as high school and junior high school coaches.

“I think it’s a really good thing for Illinois basketball in general,” Carlsen said. “From that standpoint, I think the more positive notoriety you can get for your program, the better.”

This is Carlen’s fourth time being recognized with this honor in the past five seasons after she led NIU to a 21-win season, a spot in the Mid-American Conference championship and a WNIT berth this season, for the team’s first playoff appearance since 1995.

Carlsen said people outside of the program will always look at the wins and losses, but players reflecting on their experiences don’t talk about wins and losses — they talk about the relationships she had with players.

Players coached by Carlsen called her a leader and said it’s more than just about the sport with her. Carlsen cares about their families, struggles and goals and makes the effort to develop a personal relationship with each of them.

“Whenever she speaks, you want to listen to her,” said Ally Lehman, former women’s basketball guard. “She can walk in a room and you know that she’s a leader.”

Before the team’s first MAC Tournament game March 8 against Ohio University, Carlsen handed a sheet of paper to every player on the team.

It had every player’s name on it and their contribution to the team that had gotten them to that point.

Courtney Woods, sophomore guard and forward, said a lot of players were nervous heading into the game because most of them hadn’t been to the MAC Tournament before, but Carlsen’s gesture, even if it was small, meant a lot to them.

“It still sticks with me, and I still have that [paper] pinned up on my wall,” Woods said. “It’s a really small thing that had a really big effect.”

Cassidy Glenn, former women’s basketball forward, left the team in December 2014 and returned in July 2015, Carlsen’s first season.

Glenn said after she left, she wasn’t sure how the last couple of years of her collegiate career would go, but after talking with Carlsen, she believed she could finish her career strong.

“I’ve learned [from Carlsen] to never give up on anything I want [and] to always persevere no matter what situation I’m put in,” Glenn said. “It’s something that I’m always going to carry with me.”

Carlsen said she thinks every coach’s legacy is dependent on the perception former players have of them and impacting those players’ lives in some way other than “just being the person in the suit on the sidelines” is what all coaches want to be remembered by.

“She’s just a great person,” Lehman said. “I’d love to be like her one day. She’s a good role model, [and] she’s definitely somebody I won’t forget.”