Turner answers call to guide Racers
The championship culture we had at Murray High will be built at Murray State – Rechelle Turner
The secret to success is often the ability to see things from a different perspective. That’s certainly true in athletics, especially for mid-major programs. Coaches often have to take players who don’t fit neatly into their scheme and find a way to maximize their value.
And when athletic directors go looking for coaches they rarely get to hire someone with a proven record as a Division I head coach. They have to look deeper than that and they usually hire some up and coming young assistant. But sometimes you just have to think outside the box.
That’s what Allen Ward did a little over a month ago when he hired Murray High’s Rechelle Turner to take over the women’s basketball program at Murray State. There are those who might question hiring a high school coach. But Oklahoma’s Sherri Coiale was a high school coach when the Sooners hired her 21 years ago. And she has won almost 500 games. Closer to home, Tennessee-Martin’s Kevin McMillen was a high school coach when the Skyhawks hired him. In eight years he has averaged nearly 20 wins.
“I’m thrilled that Coach Turner accepted our offer to lead the women’s basketball program,” Ward said when he made the announcement. “She’s an outstanding coach, an extraordinary leader, a proven winner, and a highly respected member of our community. This is a good day for Murray State University and the community of Murray.”
She’s an outstanding coach, an extraordinary leader, a proven winner, and a highly respected member of our community.
MSU president Dr. Robert Davies echoed Ward’s sentiments, “I’ve had the opportunity to talk at length with Rechelle about her vision for the program. It’s clear that she’s committed to excellence, both on the court and in the classroom. She’s quite passionate about impacting the lives of her players and winning championships. It’s not every day that the ideal candidate is just down the road. I look forward to watching all she’ll accomplish while leading the Racers for many years to come.”
Turner fashioned a 460-178 record at MHS putting her in the top-20 in career victories all-time in the state of Kentucky. She led the Lady Tigers to four Region 1 championships. This past season she led Murray High to the All-A state championship and the final four of the state tournament. She is a six-time All-Purchase Coach of the Year.
“I’m just thankful to God for blessing me with this opportunity,” Turner said. “I’m humbled and blessed that Mr. Ward and Dr. Davies would trust me to take over the women’s basketball program at Murray State. This is an amazing opportunity and I look forward to working with everyone here. I am just so proud to be able to be a part of this.”
Turner is famous for her fiery demeanor on the sidelines. But her former players will tell you that fire is tempered with love.
Playing for Rechelle is like playing for your mother…She is always there for you, on the court, or off the court.
“Playing for Rechelle is like playing for your mother,” former Murray High star Jansen Starks said. “She is always there for you, on the court, or off the court. She gives you a lot of freedom so that you can show what you’re capable of doing. She’ll yell at you but you have such a great relationship with her off the floor that it doesn’t bother you.
“People see the way she yells during games and they think that’s what she’s like. But she doesn’t do it in a mean way. Off the floor your relationship with her is like a mother – daughter relationship.”
And you can count on it being the same at Murray State.
“The championship culture we had at Murray High will be built at Murray State,” Turner said. “We’ll have the same foundation. Twenty-one years of head coaching has taught me that nothing is more important than relationships. Relationships through faith and family will become the bedrock, the unshakable foundation, of our program.”
Over the last month, Turner has barely had time to catch her breath.
“It’s been a whirlwind, just trying to get our feet wet and do the things that have to be done,” she said. “The most rewarding part of it has been the relationships that we’ve been able to build with our team. The team chemistry is really good. The workouts have been great. Our players have worked extremely hard and I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve done so far.”
Any time you have a coaching change there’s a chance some of the players will move on as well. But nine of the 10 underclassmen who played last year will be back and all four of the recruits who signed letters of intent last fall are still coming.
Ke’Shunan James, a first team All-OVC selection, will be back for her senior year.
“KJ’s maturity and her willingness to change has been very evident over the last month,” Turner said. “I’ve been really pleased with the leadership all of our seniors have shown. Jasmine Borders, Abria Gulledge, and Mary Jones, along with KJ have really stepped up and done what you need seniors to do. And our underclassmen have worked extremely hard too.”
Turner has set out to rebuild the program from the ground up, but don’t expect her to introduce a completely different style of play.
“One thing that sets me apart is that I don’t have a set system,” she said. “I will take the kids we have, find their strengths and find a way to play to their strengths. So, our style of play will depend on what best suits our players. And it will also depend on who we’re playing. We may be able to press and trap some teams but not others. So, our style will be ever changing.
“The one constant on offense will be shot selection. I told our players the other day, I’m almost 44 years old and I can get a 25 footer any time I want to. That doesn’t make it a good shot. We need to work together to get the best shot we can whether that’s a layup, a mid-range jumper, or a 3. We don’t want to settle.”
By the time Turner was hired, there wasn’t much time left to recruit players for next year. But she and her staff have been hard at work laying a foundation for the future.
“We hit the ground running with recruiting,” Turner said. “We felt like we needed to get out there as much as possible. I don’t know how many more we’ll sign for next year. But our 2018 class will be a big class.”
Scheduling is always a challenge at Murray State but the Racers’ 2017-18 slate is complete. They’re just waiting for all the contracts to be signed and returned.
“We’re excited about our schedule,” Turner said. “We play a couple of very highly regarded teams. I think you have to do that so your kids can see what it takes to get to that level. Your non-conference schedule gives you an opportunity to get better. Your record in non-conference play doesn’t matter. You want to test your kids and put them in difficult situations to get them ready for conference play.”
Turner spent 21 years coaching at Murray High. She played at Murray State and she played high school basketball at Marshall County. So she knows the area well and that gives her a unique opportunity to connect with fans all over the area.
“This is a great community for basketball,” she said. “And I’ve talked to our players about embracing that. Murray State women’s basketball hasn’t been a known entity. It’s our job to change that. We have to get out in the community and make the fans feel like they’re a part of all that we do.”