A new era has begun for Missouri Western women’s basketball as former Texas Tech head coach Candi Whitaker has been hired to take over the program.
Whitaker will be the ninth head coach of the women’s team and is the first woman to be named head coach of the program since 1992. Whitaker is looking forward to taking over the reigns.
“My family and I could not be more excited to join the Missouri Western family,” Whitaker said. “The tradition of the women’s basketball program, facilities, community support and the toughest Division II conference in the country, make MWSU a special place. I am excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”
Whitaker has either played or coached basketball her entire life and has been a part of many notable programs. Not only did she coach at Texas Tech from 2013-2018, but she also played for the Red Raiders in 2000-2002. She helped Texas Tech reach back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances during her time there.
During Whitaker’s career, she has been an associate head coach at Oklahoma State (2012-2013) and the head coach at UMKC (2006-2012). During her time at UMKC she won 83 games and left as the second-winningest coach in program history.
Missouri Western Athletic Director Josh Looney believes that, not only her resume, but Whitaker’s character made her an attractive candidate for the job.
“I’m excited that she’s going to stand at the forefront of women’s athletics at Missouri Western,” Looney said. “She is a role model, a leader, a competitor, someone that balances family and just an absolute person you want to follow and can be a positive role model for the young women in our athletic program.”
As with most coaching careers, there have been ups and downs for Whitaker. In 2018 she was let go during the middle of the season at Texas Tech. She took a year off from coaching and helped raise her family. The next place she coached needed to be the best place for her family.
“It became apparent to me that I was ready to get back into coaching, but not anywhere,” Whitaker said. “It needed to be the right fit, the right fit professionally, but more importantly, the right fit personally for my family.”
As far as the type of coach she is, Whitaker adjusts her game plan based on the players she has. She wants players like herself, high character and high motors.
“I’m a hard working, blue-collared person myself. That’s who I was as a player,” Whitaker said. “I love to look and score it, but most importantly, we are going to play really, really hard. We are going to have kids that battle every single day and that you can connect with and that will represent us very, very well.”
Anytime a new coach is brought, the players are not always sure of what to expect. Making that process easier is Whitaker’s relationship with former Missouri Western player, Brittney Atkins. Atkins was recruited and coached by Whitaker during her time at Oklahoma State. Junior Simone Walker says Atkins has a lot of positive things to say about the new women’s coach.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect, but I heard she coached [Atkins] so I texted her to find out,” Walker said. “Britt was excited, so once I found out she was that happy, I knew we had a good coach on our hands.”
Whitaker is taking over a program that went 14-16 a year ago. She comes to Missouri Western with her husband, Matt Whitaker, and their three sons, Westin, William and Callahan.