Utah State University Vice President and Director of Athletics John Hartwell announced Monday that Kayla Ard (rhymes with hard) has been named the school’s ninth head women’s basketball coach in its 32 seasons.
A live interactive stream to formally introduce Ard will be held on Tuesday, March 24, at 11 a.m. Fans can watch the introduction live on the Mountain West Network via www.utahstateaggies.com/watch.
“I am truly blessed, thankful and honored to be the head women’s basketball coach at Utah State University,” said Ard. “This is a dream come true for me and I cannot thank President (Noelle) Cockett, John Hartwell and the administration at Utah State enough for putting their trust in me and choosing me to lead this program. The leadership at USU is so strong and Logan is a special place – I felt that the second I stepped on campus and met the people in the athletic department and the community.
“Utah State Athletics has a great tradition of winning and I could not be more fired up to get to work and give the best fans in the country something to be excited about as we make some noise in the Mountain West.”
Ard brings 10 years of collegiate experience with her to Utah State, serving as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Denver, Dayton, Clemson, Troy and Pensacola State. In all, she has coached one WNBA draft pick and 17 players that have played professionally overseas.
Known for her strong recruiting, Ard immediately made her mark at Denver as the Pioneers signed the top-ranked recruiting class in the Summit League in her first season, according to ASGR Basketball. Ard also helped Dayton sign the 19th ranked recruiting class in the nation in 2016, according to ESPN. While at Clemson, the Tigers signed six of the top 43 recruits in the nation at their position, per ESPN. During her time at Troy, the Trojans signed four NJCAA All-Americans and five of the top 31 recruits in the nation at their position, per ESPN. And at Pensacola State, Ard helped recruit and coach eight All-Americans.
“When we started the process of hiring a head coach for our women’s basketball program, we were looking for the following qualities: high energy, tireless recruiter, impeccable work ethic, strong basketball knowledge, committed to player development, and a great fit for Utah State and Cache Valley,” said Hartwell. “We had many qualified candidates that we vetted and/or interviewed, and Kayla Ard distinguished herself as the ideal coach to lead our program going forward.
“Kayla’s passion for the game and her high-energy level are clearly on display in the student-athletes she recruits and coaches. I am excited for our women’s basketball student-athletes to learn and develop under Kayla’s leadership. I am also excited for our women’s basketball fan base to see this exciting brand of basketball. Today is a great day for the future of Utah State Women’s Basketball.”
Ard comes to Utah State after spending the past three seasons as the associate head coach, recruiting coordinator and offensive coordinator at the University of Denver under Jim Turgeon, as she helped the Pioneers to three-straight non-losing seasons with a 49-43 (.533) overall record and a 26-20 (.565) mark in the Summit League. Prior to Ard’s arrival at DU, the Pioneers had suffered through five-straight losing seasons, which included single-digit wins in each of their previous four years.
During the 2019-20 season, Ard spent the last 11 games as the team’s interim head coach, leading the Pioneers to a 7-4 record and a third-seed in the Summit League Championships. As interim head coach, Ard led DU to its first road win of the season with a 91-81 victory at North Dakota and six straight wins to end the regular season, which included a 72-62 win at South Dakota State, a program that advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament a year ago. That six-game winning streak for Denver was its longest in eight years, while its win at SDSU was its first since 2015.
Denver finished the 2019-20 season by setting a school record with a free throw percentage of 77.1, while posting the fourth-highest scoring average in program history at 77.6 points per game as the Pioneers went 15-15 overall, including a 9-7 record in league play. The Pioneers also finished third in the nation in free throws made (504), 14th in free throw attempts (654), 18th in scoring offense (77.6) and 19th in free throw percentage (77.1).
Individually, Ard helped Madison Nelson earn first-team all-Summit League honors as she set program records for single-season points (592), rebounds (343) and scoring average (19.7). Nelson also became the first player in Denver’s Division I era to average a double-double with 19.7 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Ard also mentored Lauren Loven to second-team all-league honors as she finished her career second in conference history with 341 made 3-pointers and 832 3-point attempts, and eighth all-time in scoring with 1,453 points.
During the 2018-19 season, Denver posted an 18-14 overall record and a 10-6 mark in the Summit League, its most overall and league wins in seven seasons. DU also advanced to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament for the second time in school history and secured its first-ever postseason win with an 83-75 victory at New Mexico in the opening round.
During her first season at Denver, Ard helped the Crimson and Gold to a 16-14 record, which was a 10-win improvement from the previous season and its first winning record in six years. That 10-win improvement tied for the highest turnaround by a first-year staff in the country that season.
Prior to her role at Denver, Ard spent two seasons at the University of Dayton, where she served as the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. While at Dayton, Ard coached a class that was ranked in the top 20 in the nation in 2015 and also worked with the 2015 A-10 Rookie of the Year. Prior to her time at Dayton, Ard was an assistant coach at Clemson for two years.
Ard also coached at Troy under Chanda Rigby, whom she followed from Pensacola State before the 2012-13 season. Ard was instrumental in putting together Troy’s eight-member 2013 signing class, which included three National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-Americans.
Ard was a standout recruiter and assistant coach at Pensacola State College in Florida during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, helping the Pirates earn back-to-back appearances in the NJCAA National Semifinals. As recruiting coordinator at Pensacola State, Ard signed three WBCA All-Americans and coached the players to 13 all-conference honors. Her players moved on to earn scholarships in the Big East, SEC, Pac-12 and Colonial Athletic Conference.
A native of Hammond, La., Ard was highly recruited out of Loranger High School after averaging over 26.0 points a game, earning all-district honors three consecutive years and leading her team to three final four appearances, including a state championship in 2000 under the direction of Rigby.
Ard’s collegiate career began on the junior college level at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College. After playing one season there, she transferred to Southeastern Louisiana where she played from 2004-06, including an all-Southland Conference selection in 2005.
Ard graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in general studies. She then earned her master’s degree in psychology from the University of Phoenix in 2013.