Karen Middleton Named Women’s Basketball Coach at UW-La Crosse

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has named Karen Middleton as its 15th head women’s basketball coach in school history.  A native of Jefferson, South Carolina, Middleton served as associate head coach at Cal State Fullerton University in 2015-16, overseeing the day-to-day aspects of the women’s basketball program for the Titans.

“I am ecstatic to be named the head coach at UWL,” said Middleton.  “I heavily researched the school, the team, and the conference before applying, and I know what an incredible opportunity this position at UW-La Crosse presents.  I truly look forward to working in an athletic department driven by excellence on and off the court.  Additionally, I can’t wait to begin working with a group of young women motivated to be the best.”

“I am very excited to welcome Karen to our department,” said UWL Director of Athletics Kim Blum.  “She brings a wealth of impressive experience to the program.  Karen’s Division I competitiveness, combined with her commitment to the Division III ideals of developing the whole student, are a winning combination.  I look forward to watching Karen take our program to new levels of success.”

Middleton was on UWL’s campus June 7-8. “I am extremely impressed with the total package UWL provides its students,” added Middleton.  “It has elite academic standards with world-class programs combined with athletic programs that are competing for and winning championships year after year.  UWL has a picturesque campus that is growing to give its students incredible resources and is located in a gorgeous area to live.  I felt very welcomed by everyone I met on campus.  I could feel the support and the feel of “family” within the athletic department and campus community.  Being an Eagle is a great fit for me, as the positive experience of students is always put in the forefront.”

Prior to working at Cal State Fullerton, Middleton was the head women’s basketball coach at Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, North Carolina) for six years from 2009-15. Under Middleton’s tutelage, three Catamounts earned SoCan All-Freshman honors while three players earned all-conference accolades, including a pair of first team choices.  Western Carolina garnered Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic National Top-25 finishes twice, including 13th in 2011-12 and 14th in 2012-13.

“My immediate plans are to call our current players and begin letting them get to know me and me get to know each of them and their families,” said Middleton.  “It is critical we continue to build our chemistry and championship culture, and I believe that begins with positive relationships and trust.  Next, I will begin to put a dynamic staff together.  This goes without saying, but I will be reaching out to high school and club coaches, attend summer camps and tournaments, and hit the recruiting trail hard.  There are many, many, things to do, and I am ready to get started.

“I am looking forward to getting to know the players and helping them reach their goals, on and off the court,” added Middleton.  “I am excited about the UWL athletic department, and the way each team is striving for greatness. I look forward to teaching the game, creating a family atmosphere, and helping our players grow into successful young women.  These are an amazing four years of any student’s life, and I am honored to be their head coach at UWL. I can’t wait to get on the court in October and begin taking strides towards reaching our goals as a team and program.”

Middleton spent two years as an assistant coach at the University of Illinois from 2007-09, helping lead the Illini to a WNIT appearance in 2007-08.  She helped sign the No. 3 recruiting class in the country at Illinois. Middleton coaches two-time All-Big Ten First Team selection Jenna Smith.

Before coaching at Illinois, Middleton served as an assistant coach at Stanford University (Calif.) for 10 years from 1997-2007 under head coach Tara VanDerveer.  The Cardinal won eight Pac-10 conference titles and earned 10 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including four Sweet Sixteens and three Elite Eights.  Middleton coached three Kodak All-Americans and two Pac-10 Players of the Year.

Prior to arriving at Stanford, Middleton was an assistant coach at Eastern Washington University for three years (1994-97) and for two years at South Carolina (1992-94).  A member of the WBCA, Middleton was on the USA Basketball Olympic Festival Trails Staff in 1993 and the USA Basketball National Team Training Camp Staff in 1994.

“I have had tremendous opportunities and experiences in my coaching career,” added Middleton.  “From my successful playing days at South Carolina, under a incredible coach and mentor in Nancy Wilson, to working at Stanford and learning from Hall of Famer, Tara VanDerveer, I have a vision of what success looks like and feels like.  I am a teacher of the game.  I have the knowledge and leadership skills to help our players continue to grow and develop individually, while helping our team progress to compete for championships.  I have great attention to detail, and I always do things the right way.  Additionally, I have a tremendous urgency to help each player enjoy their experience, which means earning a degree, winning championships, and having fun while doing it all.”

Middleton graduated cum laude from the University of South Carolina in 1991 with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education while earning her Interdisciplinary Master of Arts in physical education in 1993 from South Carolina.

She started her coaching career at her alma mater as a volunteer assistant (1991-92).  Middleton played for the Gamecocks for four years, scoring over 1,700 career points and setting a single-season school record with 115 three-point field goals made. She was a team captain and most valuable player and earned All-Metro Conference honors.

“I would like to thank Kim Blum, Erin Thacker and the entire search committee,” said Middleton.  “Derek Stanley did an incredible job leading the committee and was very professional and thorough throughout the process.  I look forward to meeting the entire Eagle athletic department, professors on campus, our tremendous alumni, and our fans as well.  It’s a great time to be an Eagle!”


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