By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
There’s one thing Ronda Hubbard is looking forward to not hearing during the women’s basketball season.
“I’m excited that the officials can’t tell me to sit down any more,” Hubbard said Tuesday night. “One of my strong suits has been game coaching, and it’s hard when it’s in your blood to be strapped down to a chair during a game. That’s part of being an assistant, and if there is a challenge in being an assistant, that is it.”
Hubbard, who has been an assistant at Missouri Southern the past 12 years, was promoted to interim head coach of the Lions on Tuesday. She succeeds Maryann Mitts, who retired as head coach to accept a teaching position at MSSU.
“I am honored and humbled to fill her shoes,” Hubbard said. “We have always shared the same philosophy about making winners out of our players in every aspect of life.”
Hubbard has been an assistant for Mitts for 16 years — four at Rockhurst and the last 12 at Missouri Southern. They met Tuesday afternoon with the 10 players who are spending this summer in Joplin.
“It was emotional, very emotional,” Hubbard said. “We have a really tight-knit group coming back. I told them I know you are without a doubt feeling a sense of loss. You have an amazing leader that many of you have been coached by for a year. Know that I share in that loss because I have been impacted by her leadership for 16 years.
“This is a part of life. People have to make decisions. We support her in her decision, and it’s a great decision for her. The hardest thing for her was the players. ... No matter what Maryann Mitts does, she’s going to be tremendously successful.”
Likewise, Mitts expects Hubbard to be successful in her new role.
“She is a real teacher of the game,” Mitts said. “In a sense she has been in the backdrop of our program, and now it’s her turn to be out in front and to shine. I think fans will be excited about what they see, and rest assured, I will be their No. 1 fan.
“I’m happy for our players. Any time there is a coaching change, there is a certain amount of shock. Any time you can have some stability in your staff, it’s helpful.”
Hubbard, a graduate of Kickapoo High School and Missouri State, has experience as a head coach. She coached girls basketball at Springfield Catholic from 1994-96 and guided the Irish to a 76-16 record and becoming the youngest coach in Missouri prep basketball history to win back-to-back state championships. Two late-season injuries prevented a potential third state crown.
“When I came to Missouri Southern, I believed I would be a head coach again,” Hubbard said. “The reason I came here is I really did believe Coach Mitts wanted to be in some sort of leadership role administratively.
“Sometimes those things don’t happen in the timeframe you think they will, and (assistant coaches) will jump ship. You don’t jump ship when you fall in love with everything around you, and that is the case for me. Joplin is my home now. I have great pride in it, and what kept me here was my loyalty to Coach Mitts and my love of Missouri Southern.”