Helen Higgs, the winningest women’s basketball coach in Whitworth history, has decided to step down after 24 years, the university announced Friday.
“After every season I evaluate what is best for this program in every aspect, and my own sense of passion and calling,” Higgs said following her program-record 24th year with the Pirates.
“This year felt like my sense of vocation and passion are no longer here,” Higgs said. “If I’m not all in, my team won’t be all in.”
Whitworth finished 10-15 overall and 5-11 in the Northwest Conference last season.
Higgs, who finishes with a record of 361-253, led the Pirates to back-to-back NCAA Division III Tournament appearances in 2013 and 2014.
The 2013-14 season was perhaps her best, as Higgs became the first NWC women’s basketball coach to reach 300 wins with an 89-56 win at Pacific Lutheran on Feb. 8, 2014.
Whitworth earned the program’s first win over a top-ranked opponent as the Pirates defeated No. 1 Whitman 68-65 to repeat as the NWC Tournament champions. One week later, Whitworth claimed its first NCAA Tournament victory with a 71-51 win over George Fox in the opening round.
Higgs, who played at the University of Oregon, is a three-time NWC coach of the year, in 1995, 2002 and 2003.
“We are extremely grateful for Helen’s passion and commitment to Pirates basketball over these many years and we are thankful for her legacy of helping shape not only basketball players but the young women under her leadership,” said Tim Demant, Whitworth’s director of athletics.
Whitworth will begin a national search for its next women’s basketball coach immediately, Demant said.
“Whitworth is committed to continuing the standard of excellence that our basketball programs have already established,” he said.
Higgs’ next move is less certain. She’s a Whitworth faculty member who earned her Ph.D. from Gonzaga in leadership studies in 2012.
“While I am generally a planner and like to have some control, I am still waiting to see where my next sense of passion and avocation lies,” she said. “But I know that God has a plan for me.”