Landmark win could come tonight at Michigan State
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Lisa Bluder coaching during a game
Hawkeye women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder goes for career win 600 tonight at Michigan State. Photo courtesy of UI Athletic Communications.

In 1984, St. Ambrose athletics director Jim Fox gambled on hiring a 24-year-old with no head coaching experience to lead the Bees women's basketball program.

It didn't take long for Lisa Bluder to make 30-win seasons an expectation for the NAIA institution in Davenport.

Fast-forward 29 years: With her next victory, Bluder becomes the 42nd coach in all divisions, and the 25th head coach with at least 10 seasons in Division I, to reach 600.

"It really is longevity," Bluder says. "But I am so fortunate because of (associate head coach) Jan (Jensen) and (assistant coaches) Jenni (Fitzgerald) and Shannon (Gage) and the commitment that they have given me. That is what's remarkable. That to me is the true story, that Jan and Jenni have been around for 21 years, and they are every bit as important as I am in every single one of those victories. "

Bluder earned a bachelor's degree in marketing from the University of Northern Iowa in 1983, but her real desire was basketball. In her first year after college, she evaluated officials, did public address, worked camps, and even officiated. With her fiancé, David, living in the Quad Cities, Bluder sent coaching résumés to three local colleges—Augustana, Marycrest, and St. Ambrose.

Augustana and Marycrest didn't bother sending rejection letters to the experience-thin hopeful. Fox, on the other hand, was so impressed that he bumped the original annual salary offer of $2,400 to $2,500, and Bluder's career began.

"It was kind of a lucky situation that I ever even got into coaching," Bluder says. "It was Jim Fox, the athletics director at St. Ambrose, who took a chance on me, and I'll always be thankful for that."

Bluder compiled a six-year record of 169-36 at St. Ambrose, and then moved to Drake, where she went 187-106 in 10 seasons. Now in her 13th year with the Hawkeyes, Bluder is 243-148 for a total of 599-290.

"I've been fortunate to be at three great places, all in the state of Iowa," Bluder says. "I'm proud of the fact that I've spent my entire coaching career in the state of Iowa. St. Ambrose, Drake, and now at the University of Iowa, it really is a dream come true. I've been here 13 years, and I am still just as excited as I was that first year when I got here. I am still so excited to be able to be the Hawkeyes' coach. It really is a dream."

Bluder's first victory was 88-77 against Clarke College in Dubuque. Number 600 could come Thursday on the road against Michigan State (14-2 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) in East Lansing, Mich.

"That's a crazy number, she is in elite company," UI sophomore guard Samantha Logic says. "We have to prepare like any other game, she would want us to do that. It's a lot of wins for one coach in a career, but she recruits the right people in her system and gets everything to work out, and she deserves it."