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Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Ask Kirkwood women’s basketball coach Kim Muhl what the most important coaching lesson he’s learned and he’ll tell you, without a second of hesitation.
After 28 years coaching the Eagles and seven national titles to his name — the most recent just days ago — perhaps it makes sense he doesn’t have to think long about the very basis of his personal coaching philosophy.
“Be humble,” Muhl said. “Because the game will come back and bite you real fast.”
A perfect 37-0 record, a national championship, and coaching one of the best basketball teams Kirkwood will ever have would all certainly be reasons to be a bit aloof, but that’s not who Muhl is, or ever will be.
No, Muhl is the coach who will readily find something that didn’t go perfectly, will bring it up and comment on what he or the team needed to do better. Even when discussing a national tournament run in which Kirkwood outscored its opponents by 79 points over four games, he still is sure to mention he wasn’t satisfied with the defense.
“To be honest with you,” Muhl said, “I didn’t think we played real well defensively until the final game.”
That final game was a 61-46 drubbing of Johnson County Community College (Kansas), a team that was 30-1 coming into the contest. After grabbing the lead late in the first quarter, his team didn’t trail again as it played excellent defense and shot the ball fairly well.
As it has been most of the season, Kirkwood was able to assert its will and grind out a win, which fits right into Muhl’s mantra as a coach.
He comes across as an old-school kind of coach and certainly loves post players. He found a truly excellent one in Simone Goods, a 6-2 sophomore forward. She tallied 19 points and 17 rebounds in the championship and was a force to behold for the entire season.
“You have to score inside every once in a while,” Muhl said. “Not everyone has Golden State (Warriors) players.”
Outside shooting certainly isn’t foreign to the Eagles. Reserve guard Megan Axcell nailed one against Cincinnati State to win a close 65-63 game in the quarterfinals and Kirkwood also splashed six home against Johnson County.
But, on the whole, Muhl’s philosophy about how he plays the game makes sense. It’s a style he likes and he’s stuck with it.
It’s also, mostly, the reason he chooses to stay at Kirkwood. He’s had serious discussions to coach elsewhere, but nothing has ever been the right situation.
There’s no reason to believe change will come anytime soon.
“People can complain and find fault in a lot of situations, wherever you’re at,” Muhl said. “I like what I’m doing and that’s the biggest thing.”
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