After just two seasons at the helm, head coach Stacy Johnson-Klein has engineered the resurgence of women's basketball at Fresno State and remains on track to establish the Bulldog program into a postseason regular and national contender.
Johnson-Klein inherited a program that had endured more than 90 losses in the five seasons prior to her arrival and immediately instilled a winning attitude that has been embraced by her players and the Red Wave faithful.
Now in her third season, Johnson-Klein's squad is poised to become one of the premier teams in the WAC and ultimately compete for postseason play. Johnson-Klein, 34-29 as a Division 1 head coach, has led the Bulldogs to consecutive double-figure victory seasons for the first time since 1999-2000. After all she has accomplished to this point, a successful 2004 season looks promising.
In 2003-04, Johnson-Klein oversaw an underclassmen-laden squad win six of its final nine games to finish 13-16 overall. The loss of six seniors to graduation translated into some mid-season struggles for the Bulldogs, but also allowed the coaching staff to witness several players make an impact in starting roles. Returnees Mindy Clark, Aritta Lane and Veronica Mack enjoyed career-best seasons, while newcomers Chantella Perera, Jasmine Plummer and Brittani Green gained invaluable starting experience and ultimately helped carry the team during the late-season push. In addition to completing its first two-game conference road sweep since 1997, Fresno State hosted the 2004 WAC Tournament and earned a first-round bye in the event for the second straight year
However, the 2002-03 campaign ranks as perhaps the most memorable in school history. In her first season Johnson-Klein led the Bulldogs to a 21-13 record, a 12-game improvement from the previous season that ranked as the second-best turnaround in the country. Fresno State achieved its first winning record since 1996-97 and qualified for the postseason for the first time in 13 years, advancing to the quarterfinals of the WNIT after notching home victories in the first two rounds. Despite being picked to finish seventh in the WAC preseason coaches poll, Fresno State placed third in regular season conference play- matching the best league finish in school history.
Johnson-Klein directed the 2002-03 squad to a No. 3 seed in the WAC Tournament, representing the first time in school history the Bulldogs were the higher seed in a conference tournament contest. Wins over San Jose State and SMU placed Fresno State in the WAC Tournament championship game for the first time, where the Bulldogs battled Louisiana Tech in the school's national television debut.
Hosting its first postseason game in program history, Fresno State defeated Santa Clara 87-72 in the North Gym during the opening round of the WNIT. Momentum continued three nights later in front of a then-record crowd of 4,507 at Selland Arena, where the 'Dogs edged Oregon State 58-57. After holding a seven-point halftime edge at Baylor in the quarterfinals, the host Lady Bears rallied for a 72-65 triumph to end the Bulldog's postseason run.
Two of Johnson-Klein's biggest goals- develop a strong rebounding club and restore the Bulldogs as a regional power- have proved to be integral components to the Bulldog's success.
Last year, Fresno State led the WAC in rebounding and over the previous two seasons ranked second in rebounding margin behind defending-champion Louisiana Tech. Under Johnson-Klein's tutelage, Omelogo Udeze set a Fresno State single-season rebounding record while ranking second in the WAC in 2002-03 and last year Mindy Clark posted career-highs in points and rebounds in addition to finishing second in the conference in rebounding. Also under Johnson-Klein's watch, the Bulldogs have performed well against California schools, notching a 12-2 mark. Quite a turnaround, considering the Bulldogs were just 9-14 against teams from the Golden State over the three previous seasons combined.
In addition to the success on the court, Johnson-Klein has been equally responsible for generating a renewed sense of enthusiasm surrounding women's basketball at Fresno State. Johnson-Klein has not only directed the Bulldogs to a 20-9 home record in her first two seasons, but has also watched her teams shatter program attendance records and place Fresno State among the nation's top-20 watched programs.
During Johnson-Klein's rookie season, both total and average attendance figures more than doubled those of the 2001-02 campaign. The Bulldogs went 13-2 at home while averaging 1,462 fans in the final season at the North Gym, tallied five sellouts overall and drew 4,507 for a WNIT second round victory at Selland Arena over Oregon State. The 2003-04 campaign was even more impressive, as Fresno State ranked 19th nationally in average attendance during the inaugural season of the Save Mart Center. The Bulldogs drew 62,933 total fans and averaged 4,495 per game- both new program highs. Fresno State topped the 4,000 mark in all but one game, with the 5,237 fans that turned for the regular season finale against Nevada representing the largest crowd in school history.
In addition, Fresno State's average crowd of 4,495 during the 2003-04 campaign represented an increase of 3,033 fans per game from the previous season- good enough for the third-best attendance improvement in the nation. In 2002-03, the Bulldogs averaged crowds of 1,462 per game and 21,936 overall.
Johnson-Klein's squads have also excelled in the classroom, with the most recent spring semester resulting in a 3.03 team GPA- the highest such mark during Johnson-Klein's two-year tenure. In the four semesters since her arrival, the women's basketball squad has maintained an overall team GPA of at least 2.9. Individual student-athletes who have enjoyed notable success in the classroom over the last two seasons include former guard Chanie Sutherland (two-time WAC All-Academic and Kiwanis Torchlighter award recipient) and current team member Cophie Moore (WAC All-Academic selection last year).
Johnson-Klein's fast start in Fresno shouldn't surprise anyone though, as the Stigler, Okla., native has enjoyed success at every level.
Prior to her arrival at Fresno State, Johnson-Klein was an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech from 2000-2002. During her tenure in Ruston, Johnson-Klein helped guide the Lady Techsters to two NCAA Tournament appearances, which included a 2001 trip to the Elite Eight after setting a national record with six consecutive 30-win seasons. She was instrumental in securing a recruiting class that tallied four McDonald's All-Americans and was ranked third nationally. Her duties at Louisiana Tech included recruiting, scouting reports, on-floor coaching with the post players and offense, player development and compliance with NCAA rules.
Before her stay at Louisiana Tech, Johnson-Klein served as the head coach at Cameron University, a Division II school in Lawton, Okla. In three seasons there, she produced the first winning season at the school in over a decade and improved her team's GPA to 3.27, which ranked No. 20 nationally.
Johnson-Klein also was an assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma from 1993-96, where she recruited a top-20 class and helped guide the Sooners to a championship in the 1994 WNIT.
In addition, Johnson-Klein was an accomplished player. She played collegiately at Northeastern State, where she set 10 school records, many of which still stand. She scored a school-record 45 points in a game and had a school-record scoring average of 23.9 points per game. She was an NAIA honorable mention All-American and three-time all-conference selection.
She played professional basketball in Switzerland during the 1992 season and led the team in scoring and rebounding. Johnson-Klein has also played for Athletes in Action and Campus Crusade for Christ that toured South America. She was also the head coach and a player for the 1998 Christian Outreach International team which toured Slovakia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic.
Johnson-Klein has also conducted several coaching clinics and is noted as a dynamic public speaker and effective fundraiser.
She is the seventh coach in the 39-year history of the program and currently ranks fifth in all-time victories.
Johnson-Klein and her husband Chuck live in Clovis and have five children: Connor, Carter, Sierra, Collin and Tristan. The Klein family has a dog named Fresno.
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