Coach of the Year Kim Muhl leads undefeated Kirkwood to another national tournament

Top-ranked Eagles aiming for seventh national title

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Kirkwood women’s basketball coach Kim Muhl didn’t have a lot to say after he won the National Junior/Community College Coach of the Year award.

Muhl has been coaching Kirkwood for 28 years, has been inducted into the NJCAA women’s basketball hall of fame and has six national titles to his name. His team is undefeated, ranked No. 1 in the nation and has all the look of a national champion.

He’s more than deserving of Coach of the Year honors but it’s certainly not going to be something that takes precedence over his team.

“It’s a very humbling award,” Muhl said. “It is really appreciated and very surprising.”

Muhl isn’t a stranger to being humble. It’s a lesson he’s tried to impress upon his team this year and something he has showed during the postseason.

He wasn’t happy his bench wasn’t performing in the first two games of regional competition. Muhl felt the effort wasn’t as high as it should be and, so, on a couple different occasions, he put his starters back in late in games Kirkwood was winning by a significant margin.

In the regional championship, his bench had one of its best games and was a huge reason the Eagles blew out NIACC in a 90-61 win. Granted, the Trojans weren’t exactly the best team in Division II community college basketball, but before it became a blowout in the second half it was a close game (48-44 Eagles) at the half.

A couple of his starters got into foul trouble early on and he needed good minutes out of his substitutions. He got it.

Muhl may have received the award for the glittery record and ranking, but it really is the little things he does that sets him apart.

A seventh national championship is well within Kirkwood’s grasp, with the Dakota College at Bottinea as their first foil for the tournament. A 16-team tournament, the Eagles are the No. 1 overall seed while the Ladyjacks are the lowest-seeded team.

Muhl has some thoughts on what it will take to win another title.

“To win I believe you need to keep people healthy, out of foul trouble and get some breaks along the way,” Muhl said. “This group has been resilient all year and has always played in the big games.”

The Eagles are a team with a lot of different weapons, something that bodes well in a tournament setting. Averaging over 82 points per game and allowing just 50.5 on defense, it’s hard to put into words just how good Kirkwood has been this year.

Anything less than a national title won’t satisfy this team.

“You think back to all the hard things you had to do to get here and you start to appreciate it more,” star forward Simone Goods said. “I love my team and I’m just excited for this next step.”

l Comments: jordan.hansen@thegazette.com

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