By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Four months ago Maryann Mitts was looking forward to the 2013-14 basketball season.
“I was really excited about all our returning players,” she said. “We had signed two players as of the first of June, and we were finishing up with our last post recruit in July.”
But then came a job opportunity that was too good to pass up.
As a result, Mitts announced her retirement as Missouri Southern’s women’s basketball coach on Tuesday and accepted a teaching position in the school’s kinesiology department.
“The position was posted, and I obviously have a passion to teach,” Mitts said. “Coaching is teaching, so I’ve been teaching my whole professional career. I’ve had experience in the classroom. I’ve always taught one class a semester during my tenure. I have a passion for teaching, and when the opportunity presented itself, I applied and was offered the position.
“I think all coaches at some point in their career will look at other possibilities. I always believed that those other opportunities for me would fall in athletic administration.”
Mitts came to Missouri Southern in 2001, inheriting a program that had won 10 games the previous season and a total of 25 games in the prior four seasons.
Mitts directed the Lions to a 189-145 record in her 12-year tenure. The 2003-04 team went 19-9, and a seven-game winning streak in February included back-to-back home victories over No. 9 Washburn 63-60 in overtime and 52-45 over No. 4 Emporia State.
“I’d like to thank Coach Mitts for her service to Missouri Southern,” MSSU athletics director Jared Bruggeman said in a release. “For the past dozen years she has been the face of Missouri Southern women’s basketball. Her tireless effort on and off the court can be seen in her players and in her coaches, and the results that her teams accomplished are what other coaches who come along will be judged by. I want to personally wish her luck in her next venture as a college professor.”
Mitts went 83-57 in five seasons as head coach at her alma mater, Rockhurst, giving her a 272-201 career record.
“I want to thank my family, especially my parents, for their love and support during my career,” Mitts said. “College coaching is a lifestyle full of daily demands, including most weekends and all major holidays. I look forward to reconnecting with my immediate family.
“I want to thank all my former student-athletes who have represented Missouri Southern. Many of them are currently leaders in their chosen vocations. A special thanks and my appreciation goes out to Sallie Beard fro providing me this opportunity back in 2001 and for her professional mentoring over the years.
“I have a passion for Missouri Southern and a love for the women’s basketball program. It has been my complete honor to serve and continue to serve MSSU and the Joplin community.”