Coaching has been a passion for MSU coach Karen Langeland for more than 20 years.
As her program enters a new century and she starts her 24th campaign, Langeland's commitment is just as strong as it was when she was named the third head women's basketball coach in school history in 1976.
Along the way, Langeland has built a first-class program dedicated to achieving excellence on the court as well as educating and preparing players for the challenges of tomorrow.
“It's satisfying to see how our student-athletes develop not only as players but as people throughout their four years in the program,” she says. “That is still the most rewarding part of the profession for me.”
Langeland has helped develop hundreds of student-athletes during her tenure at MSU. They have gone on to careers in education, medicine, law, finance, athletic administration and coaching (see list of alumni on page 140).
On the court, the dean of Big Ten Conference women's basketball coaches has guided Spartan basketball teams to 357 overall wins, a Big Ten title, three NCAA Tournaments, a Women's National Invitational Tournament appearance, 16 winning seasons and four 20-win campaigns.
In the last four years alone, the Spartans have won a Big Ten title, made two NCAA Tournament appearances and advanced to the quarterfinals of the WNIT.
Despite losing her starting point guard to a season-ending knee injury early in the campaign, Langeland took a squad that had just one senior and guided it to a 17-14 overall record in 1998-99. The youthful Spartans made tremendous strides during the year and earned a bid to the WNIT where they advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to Big Ten rival Wisconsin by one point in overtime.
In addition, Maxann Reese became the third player in program history to earn First-Team All-Big Ten honors, while Kristen Rasmussen (second team) and Becky Cummings (honorable mention) were also recognized by the league.
Langeland also reached another milestone in her coaching career when she recorded the 350th win of her tenure in MSU's 73-58 victory over Minnesota on Jan. 22.
In 1996-97, Langeland reached a pinnacle in her career after guiding Michigan State to a share of its first-ever Big Ten title with a 12-4 record in the conference. The Spartans, who finished the year with a 22-8 overall mark, also made their second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and their third overall.
For just the second time in program history, MSU broke into the national rankings in 1996-97, climbing as high as No. 19 in the polls and finishing the season ranked 21st in the nation. Several players also reaped the rewards of a successful season. Senior Paula Sanders became just the second player in MSU history to earn First-Team All-Big Ten honors, while senior point guard Tamika Matlock earned Second-Team All-Big Ten recognition and led the nation in assists per game (7.63). In addition, rookie Maxann Reese earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman squad.
From 1995-97, Langeland's teams posted a 40-19 record and appeared in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments. The Spartans advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tourney in each appearance, losing to the No. 1 seed in their region both times. In 1997, the Spartans defeated Portland, 75-70 in overtime, before falling to top-seeded North Carolina, 81-71, in another overtime thriller. Overall, MSU has played in five NCAA Tournament games with four going into overtime.
In 1995-96, Langeland led MSU to an 18-11 overall record and a second-round NCAA Tournament appearance.
The Spartans won their first-ever NCAA Tournament game with a thrilling 60-57 overtime victory over Massachusetts in the opening round and went on to give defending champion Connecticut a hard-fought battle in an 88-68 second-round defeat.
Langeland guided her 1994-95 squad to a 16-12 overall record and a semifinal appearance in the Big Ten Tournament. In addition to MSU's strong showing in the league’s first postseason tournament since 1982, senior Kisha Kelley earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors and became the first player in Spartan history to earn All-America honors.
Langeland was named the District IV Coach of the Year in 1991 after guiding MSU to a 21-8 overall record, a 13-5 Big Ten mark (tied for second) and its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. After receiving a first-round bye, the Spartans lost a heartbreaking 96-94 triple-overtime game to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla. In 1988, Langeland earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors after MSU went 16-12 overall and finished with a 12-6 conference record.
In 1989, the Calvin College graduate became only the third coach in the history of MSU men's and women's basketball to reach the 200-win plateau with a victory over Michigan. In 1993, she reached the 250-win mark with a victory over Northwestern, while midway through the 1995-96 season, she reached another coaching milestone with her 300th career victory as the Spartans downed Northwestern, 94-90.
Equally as important as the victories is the success of Langeland’s players in the classroom. Every player who has remained in her program through her senior year has graduated, while student-athletes have earned Academic All-Big Ten, District IV Academic All-America and GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors on 40 occasions.
In addition to the academic success of Langeland's players, five of her athletes (Kathy DeBoer, Kris Emerson, Eileen Shea, Cherie Swarthout and Zareth Gray) have gone on to play professional basketball.
Another highlight of Langeland's career was her selection as the coach of the 1994 Big Ten All-Star team that toured England and Scotland. She led the all-stars to a perfect 6-0 record, the first men's or women's conference all-star team to go undefeated. Langeland again was chosen to coach the Big Ten All-Star team in 1996 and duplicated her feat of 1994 by leading the team to a 6-0 record during its tour of Denmark and Sweden.
Off the court, the Grand Rapids native is a member of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and serves on the Naismith Player of the Year Selection Committee. Langeland, who recently finished a three-year term on the Kodak All-America Selection Committee, is in her third and final year on the NCAA Midwest Region Committee for the Division I Women’s Basketball Championship. She is also a voter on the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Top 25 poll.
Aware of the importance of positive role models in athletics, Langeland always encourages her athletes to get involved in the community. In addition to her numerous speaking engagements, Langeland and her players travel to local schools on behalf of the Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program and give basketball clinics to area youth throughout the year. For the last two years, Langeland has served as the honorary co-chair of the Greater Lansing Memory Walk in support of Alzheimer's research.
LANGELAND'S CAREER RECORD
Overall Big Ten Year W-L Pct. W-L Pct. Finish Postseason 1976-77 23-6 .793 — — — AIAW Tournament 1977-78 21-7 .750 — — — 1978-79 15-11 .577 — — — 1979-80 16-11 .593 — — — 1980-81 13-9 .591 — — — 1981-82 15-11 .577 6-3 .667 T-5th 1982-83 11-16 .407 7-11 .389 7th 1983-84 18-10 .643 10-8 .556 T-5th 1984-85 11-16 .407 4-14 .222 9th 1985-86 15-12 .556 9-9 .500 T-5th 1986-87 16-12 .571 8-10 .444 6th 1987-88 16-12 .571 12-6 .667 4th 1988-89 15-13 .536 9-9 .500 T-4th 1989-90 11-17 .393 7-11 .389 6th 1990-91 21-8 .724 13-5 .722 T-2nd NCAA 2nd Round 1991-92 14-14 .500 8-10 .444 T-6th 1992-93 10-17 .370 6-12 .333 8th 1993-94 12-15 .444 7-11 .389 T-7th 1994-95 16-12 .571 8-8 .500 T-5th 1995-96 18-11 .621 9-7 .563 5th NCAA 2nd Round 1996-97 22-8 .733 12-4 .750 T-1st NCAA 2nd Round 1997-98 11-16 .407 5-11 .312 9th 1998-99 17-14 .548 8-8 .500 T-6th WNIT Quarterfinals Totals 357-278 .562 148-157 .485
No. 1 MSU 79, Western Illinois 67 - (Dec. 18, 1976)
No. 50 MSU 63, Wayne State 48 - (Jan. 16, 1979)
No. 100 MSU 104, Virginia State 58 - (Feb. 21, 1982)
No. 150 MSU 80, Northwestern 72 - (Feb. 2, 1986)
No. 200 MSU 47, Michigan 45 - (Jan. 27, 1989)
No. 250 MSU 68, Northwestern 66 - (Feb. 14, 1992)
No. 300 MSU 94, Northwestern 90 - (Jan. 19, 1996)
No. 350 MSU 73, Minnesota 58 - (Jan. 22, 1999)
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