Kamie Ethridge: From open plains to Rocky Mountains and UNC’s first Big Sky title

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Coach Kamie Ethridge led the UNC women's basketball team to their first Big Sky Conference title this season. Photo courtesy of UNCBears.com

From Lubbock, Texas to Austin, Texas. From Japan to Russia to Korea. From Illinois to Tennessee to Kansas. A roundabout way to reach the Rocky Mountain views, the mile-high air and the Northern Colorado Bears.

Mary Camille, or Kamie, Ethridge began an illustrious playing career at Monterey High School in Lubbock. It’s where she fell in love with the game of basketball. She continued to play point guard after graduating from Monterey when she signed with the Texas Longhorns, but she didn’t stop there.

Ethridge continued her career with the USA World University Games team. She competed in Kobe, Japan in 1985 where they earned the silver medal after falling to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR. In 1986, Ethridge played for team USA at the World Championships in Moscow. The team came out on top by 20 points over the USSR to take home the gold. Ethridge got to take home gold again in the Pan American games in 1987 and the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea where she ended her career.

Her love of basketball didn’t end with her playing career, it shifted to a coach’s perspective.

Ethridge began coaching as a graduate assistant at Texas before moving to the same position at Northern Illinois. In 1990, she was promoted to assistant coach at Northern Illinois. Ethridge then moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the coaching staff under Jim Foster where the team saw a Final Four appearance in 1993. From Vanderbilt, she moved to Kansas State where she started as an assistant coach before her promotion to associate head coach. While in Kansas, Ethridge helped the Wildcats become a competitive team.

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In 2014, Ethridge was named head coach of the University of Northern Colorado women’s basketball team.

“This is a program that has tremendous potential for achieving academic and athletic success in the Big Sky Conference,” Ethridge said when she was hired and she has certainly unleashed that potential.

In her first season as coach, the Bears went 22-13 to finish tied for third place in the Big Sky Conference. UNC lost their third game in the conference tournament, but still secured a birth in the NIT Tournament where they won their first two games before losing the third.

The Bears finished in third place again in 2016 with hopes of a berth in the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, the team dropped their first game of the Big Sky tournament by just one point.

After graduating just one senior, this season seems to be just a bit better for the Bears who secured the number one spot in the Big Sky Conference with a record of 21-6.

“I am thrilled to be women’s basketball coach at Northern Colorado,” Ethridge said. “It’s a fun group of women and everyday is a new adventure. We’ve had some great successes this season and I hope to see it continue.”

In Reno, Nevada the Bears success kept going taking the Big Sky title after wins over Montana and Idaho State to get to the finals and a big 91-69 victory over the Idaho Vandals for the title.

“It feels great today and we knew we were a good team, but we still knew we had something to prove coming into the tournament and didn’t want to come up short,” senior Kianna Williams said.

The Bears had more work to do when they headed to Waco, Texas as a ten seed in their first ever NCAA tournament and put on their dancing shoes to take on the Michigan Wolverines. Sadly, the Wolverines proved too much for the Bears and they headed back to Greeley after losing 75-61 in Waco, Texas.

“We couldn’t make the plays because of their length and size,” Ethridge said. “It’s something we don’t see much in our league. We tend to be able to play small and succeed. You clearly can’t do that against a team like Michigan.”

Despite the loss to Michigan, Ethridge led the Bears to another strong season. She has made an impact on not only the program, but also her players.

Seniors Savannah Scott and Kianna Williams have played all their Bears seasons under Ethridge and are grateful for the time they’ve spent with her.

Scott committed to UNC under a previous head coach and was nervous when she left.

“It was a scary time when Coach White left, I was all committed here and then she left in I think either April or May so the scary part was when there was not a coach,” Scott said. “When we saw it was Coach E and read her accolades and about all that she accomplished we decided to stay.”

Williams was Ethridge’s first recruit to Northern Colorado.

“Coach E honestly scared me to death,” Williams said, “but you can’t beat her authenticity and that’s something that is great about her.”

Ethridge and fans of the program hope to continue this years successes when the Bears step back on the court next season to defend their Big Sky title.

 

 

 

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