BY JEREMY HOECK
Forty days. That’s all it took for Amanda Hart to take a couple giant leaps up the coaching ladder.
In that span, Hart – an Alexandria native – has gone from being an assistant coach at an NAIA Division II women’s basketball program to a member of an NCAA Division I women’s basketball staff.
The 23-year-old former Dakota Wesleyan University basketball standout and former assistant coach was announced Monday as Director of Basketball Operations for head coach Amy Williams at the University of South Dakota.
For Hart, one of the most prolific scorers in DWU history, it’s been a whirlwind last 40 days. She’s known about the USD opportunity for a while now, but as she said, “I kept it to myself for a week. I wanted to wait to let it come out on its own.”
On July 9, Hart was announced as the top assistant for coach Jason Christensen at Dakota Wesleyan, replacing Sam Sikkink who left for a position at Bemidji State (Minnesota).
Now, she’s readying herself for life at the Division I level.
She spoke with the Press & Dakotan on Monday night about her new position.
It’s been a busy summer for you, hasn’t it?
Yeah, that’s for sure. Sam had announced she was leaving in the middle of June, and coach told me I would take her spot. I wasn’t actively looking for jobs or anything; I was happy where I was at. Then a few weeks ago, Amy gave me a call and said she had this position come open, and would I be interested? Immediately I was. Career-wise, it was a no-brainer. Even though I was having a great experience at Dakota Wesleyan, I couldn’t say no.
Has this always been a goal, to coach at the Division I level?
Definitely. There’s never really been a doubt in my mind; I always wanted to get into coaching. It didn’t really matter the level, NAIA or Division II or Division I, it wasn’t a huge deal to me. I didn’t think at 23, I would get there, but I found a really good situation.
How did your experience at DWU help you for something like this?
I had an awesome experience with coach Christensen and the program. He had a lot of trust in me, let me take the reins with certain things that a lot of assistants probably don’t get to do. Going from a player to a coach in that role, it was a huge learning curve, and I’m really grateful I was able to do that with them.
So this USD opportunity came out of the blue?
Yeah. I had just been named assistant at Dakota Wesleyan, so I wasn’t looking around for another job. The (USD) coaches had been looking for someone to fill that role, and my name came up somehow. Forty-eight hours later, I was offered the job and I took it. It wasn’t a formal process.
What is your impression of Amy Williams?
She’s awesome. I honestly have never heard a bad thing about coach Williams in my life. Every player and coach would tell you that. She’s just the best. She does the right things the right way for the right reasons. I’m excited to learn from her, and coach (Chuck) Love and all the coaches.
What is your impression of the program she’s built?
When I was in high school and in college, you always heard about South Dakota State, and they were the go-team in South Dakota. Especially in Division I. USD was just transitioning, but now she’s brought them to the top of the Summit League, and obviously recruiting great players has a lot to do with that. It’s great what they’ve been able to do.
What will your duties at USD entail?
I haven’t had an official meeting with her (Williams), but I imagine it’ll be a lot of the logistical stuff, the travel, coordinating flights and buses. I’m not one hundred percent sure, but I think at some point this week we’ll go over that. A lot of that is things I did at Dakota Wesleyan, so at least it won’t be totally new to me.
What are you most looking forward to?
I’m just excited to be in the program and learn from Amy and the other coaches, and see how they do things in comparison to other places.
It just so happens that in your first season, Dakota Wesleyan will play USD in Vermillion (on Dec. 17). Any extra anticipation for that game?
(Laughs) Honestly, I’m anxious to see what they (DWU) can do. It’ll probably be the first time I’ll get to see those girls this season and they’re all close to my heart. I am looking forward to seeing them, that’s for sure. And I’m sure if you ask them, they’ll be more looking forward to playing against me than I will be for USD to face them.
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