Lonning takes over as WBB head coach at Central College

Moran Lonning, a two-time Iowa Conference MVP at Luther College, is the new Central College women’s basketball coach.

Lonning has served as the top assistant coach at Simpson College since 2016, helping the team win American Rivers titles the past two seasons after climbing from a 9-16 record and sixth-place league finish in her first year in 2016-17.  

“I feel that my time at Simpson for these last six years under Coach (Brian) Niemuth have really prepared me to take this opportunity as a head coach,” Lonning said.

She’s following the path her father first trod 38 years ago. Greg Lonning, her late father, was Central’s head wrestling coach from 1986-89, after joining the staff as an assistant in 1984. He led the Dutch to the 1989 Iowa Conference crown and a fifth-place NCAA Division III team finish. As a wrestler he won the 118-pound Division III championship for Luther College in 1983. Like his daughter, he was an Iowa Conference MVP, winning the honor in 1982.

“Moran is committed to helping student-athletes meet their potential in all aspects of their lives,” athletics director Eric Van Kley said. “She sets high standards for herself and her players and is passionate about taking this team to a championship level. Her work ethic is off the charts. She can’t wait to get started and we can’t wait to have her here.”

Her father’s connection to Central is among multiple reasons the position feels like the right fit, Lonning said.

“There are so many arrows pointing me to it,” she said. “I relate to (athletics director and wrestling coach) Eric Van Kley‘s passion and intensity and his love for impacting student-athlete’s lives. With that also the wrestling connection that runs deep for me and my family with my dad’s first head coaching job being at Central College. This is a very special opportunity.”

Lonning replaces Joe Steinkamp, who was recently named Central’s head men’s basketball coach after piloting the women’s squad the past five years. A young Dutch squad posted a 6-15 record this past season but in 2021 advanced to the league tournament semifinals for the first time in 20 years. The program also has a successful tradition. Central has captured six conference women’s basketball crowns and gained five NCAA Division III tournament berths, winning the 1993 national title. All five starters from this past season are expected to return next year.

“I think there’s a nice core group and I’m excited to see what we can all accomplish together,” Lonning said. “Central has proven it can compete on the highest level. That excites me.”

Lonning, who graduated from Luther with a 3.91 grade point average, is pursuing a master’s degree.

At Simpson she was a co-leadership officer for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for the past six years. Since 2021, she served as Simpson’s representative to the American Rivers Athletics Diversity Inclusion Designee as well as the school’s Athletics Coordinator of Community Outreach and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Officer.

A Decorah native, Lonning was a walk-on with the University of Northern Iowa’s team for three years, appearing in 23 games in the 2013-14 season before transferring to Luther. She was the 2014-15 co-winner of the Iowa Conference Defensive Player of the Year Award after helping Luther win the league tournament title and was captain of the school’s 2015-16 conference championship team. She received all-America honorable mention distinction from the WBCA and D3hoops.com.

Accelerating Central’s rise to the top starts immediately, Lonning said. It requires commitment, but she’s all in and is counting on the players to be as well.

“We have to become addicted to the grind,” she said. “Whether that’s player development or recruiting by me and our staff, I think those are big keys. I’m talking about us outworking everybody, because that’s in our control, and how hard we work in recruiting, because that’s in our control. That’s what we need to focus on and then also establishing a really strong culture with high-spirited energy, positive attitudes and that grinding mentality.”

Lonning is eager to create the kind of team environment that players want to be a part of.

“I want to empower young women to be confident and to be able to be themselves in all spaces,” Lonning said. “I want to give them the power to choose that they’re going to have a positive attitude and choose to bring that energy. So much is in our control.”


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