Julie Moore wasn’t about to bail on the coach who recruited her.
Leaving the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball program - a trendy pastime last spring - was an option Moore chose not to explore.
Unlike the six Eagles who defected, Moore made up her mind to return to Eastern. Not even the team’s 5-21 record or the idea of another three years with a coach she had difficulty talking to could stop her. Moore said she even considered redshirting this year, an unconventional move for an uninjured athlete. But if it helped her work through her unhappiness, she said it would have been worth it .
That all changed overnight when head coach Heidi VanDerveer announced last April she had accepted a coaching job with the WNBA Sacramento Monarchs. Almost immediately, Eastern assistant coach Jocelyn Pfeifer was named interim head coach.
“Jocelyn was the reason why I stayed. The only reason,” said Moore, a sophomore forward.
Pfeifer’s title has since changed. The word “interim” has been dropped. However, the challenge of turning around a program still looms large.
“I sat down with all of them and gave them the option,” said Pfeifer, an assistant at Eastern for four seasons. “If they wanted to leave, they could leave. If they wanted to stay, they could stay.”
Moore didn’t need much persuading.
Pfeifer recruited Moore out of Class A Okanogan High School, where she scored more than 1,000 points in her career. She also participated in volleyball and rodeo. Breakaway roping was her strong event, which she proved by finishing second in the national tournament her senior year.
The two developed a sound player-coach relationship, despite all the hardship and long losing streaks.
It wasn’t that way with Moore and VanDerveer.
“I didn’t know where she (VanDerveer) thought I stood in the program. I didn’t know how she felt about me,” Moore said. “But I wasn’t going to leave, just because that’s what would have been the easiest thing.”
The hard part is just beginning.
Moore is one of four returning players off last year’s team, none of whom played key roles. The Eagles’ roster also includes six new players from junior college programs and freshman Carrie Waddell. Three juco players, Quisha Galloway, Heather Dukes and Missy Davies, are walkons. Waddell, a 5-foot-8 guard , is coming off a successful career at Lakeside High School.
Juli Carlson, the team’s only senior, played 80 minutes as a reserve forward last season. Moore came off the bench in 19 games, averaging more than 9 minutes and contributing 2.5 points per game.
She missed five games at the end of the season because of pink eye. However, long before, her role on the team had been established.
“It was one person trying to beat five other people. Not the same person every game, but nobody played as a team. There was attitude from everyone,” said Moore. “It was a hard season.”
Pfeifer, a standout player in the mid-‘80s at North Idaho College and Boise State, realizes the Eagles have a long way to go. She said the program has a good jump on recruits for next year, but let’s not forget this year.
“We’ve got to work hard and share the scoring load,” she said. “With just that alone, we’ll win more than five games.” , DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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