Mississippi State tabs Purcell as new women’s basketball coach
STARKVILLE, Miss. - One of the most respected recruiters in America and most impactful Division I assistant coaches in the country, Sam Purcell has been named the ninth head coach in Mississippi State women’s basketball history, MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen announced Saturday, March 12.
“During our search, Sam Purcell routinely emerged as one of the nation’s elite recruiters and more importantly, a terrific fit to lead our program,” Cohen said. “Sam has been an integral part of some of the most successful teams in women’s basketball. He is creative, meticulous, and has shown a proven ability to recruit the nation’s top talent and develop student-athletes. Sam is synonymous with the Mississippi State culture and understands the deep meaning of family. We are confident that Sam will elevate every facet of our program. We are pleased to welcome him, his wife Meghan, and his three daughters Reese, Rylee and Reagan to the Mississippi State family.”
With 19 years of women’s basketball coaching experience, including the last nine helping build the University of Louisville program into a perennial title contender, Purcell comes to Mississippi State with a reputation for player development and recruiting, as well as precise and very detailed preparation. He also prides himself on developing relationships with his players while understanding the importance of guidance and education for student-athletes, ensuring they are successful both on the court and in the classroom.
“I’m honored and humbled to be the head women’s basketball coach at Mississippi State University, and I am appreciative to John Cohen and the entire university administration for this opportunity,” Purcell said. “The Purcell family is thrilled to be coming to Starkville, and we can’t wait to meet the team and the entire Bulldog Family. Mississippi State women’s basketball is synonymous with winning, and I fully intend to continue that winning culture. Hail State!”
Purcell, a native of Dalton, Georgia, has combined for a 495-193 (.719) record in his 19 years of coaching. He boasts 14 20-win seasons and three 30-win seasons while helping his teams to five regular season conference championships and two tournament championships.
Purcell has helped lead Louisville to a 147-19 record over the past five seasons, which ranks third in the country behind Connecticut (150) and Baylor (151) for the most victories during that span.
Promoted to associate coach at the start of the 2017-18 season after serving as an assistant coach from 2013-17, Purcell has helped guide the Cardinals to an impressive 262-47 (.847) overall record, which is the best nine-year stretch in program history with an ACC record of 114-18 (.863). During his time with Louisville, Purcell has made it to the NCAA Tournament every season that a tournament has been held while advancing to a Final Four, four Elite Eights and six Sweet Sixteens.
During the 2017-18 season, Purcell played a critical role in guiding Louisville to a program-best 36-3 overall record that included an ACC Regular Season and Tournament Championship. The Cardinals opened the year going 20-0, marking the best start in program history. They then earned a No. 2 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and defeated opponents by an average of 27.5 points per game. During the 2020-21 season, Purcell helped the Cardinals to a 16-0 start and the first-ever No. 1 ranking in the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll in program history.
Purcell helped the Louisville offense consistently rank among the nation’s bests. In every season but one at Louisville, the offense ranked inside the top 40 in points per game while averaging more than 72.2 points per game during that time. The impressive scoring margins that Louisville has won games by – more than a +16.0-scoring margin in each of the last five seasons – was mainly due to a strong emphasis on defense. Under the guidance of Purcell, the Cardinals allowed opponents to average more than 60 points per contest just twice. Currently, Louisville is allowing just 55 points per game.
Purcell has learned from some of the best minds in college basketball, including Jeff Walz (current Louisville head coach), Nell Fortner (former Auburn and current Georgia Tech head coach and the head coach of the 1996 Olympic Team) and Joe Ciampi (25-year head coach at Auburn and 2005 Hall of Fame inductee).
Listed as one of the Top 30 up-and-coming women’s basketball coaches in the country, Purcell has played a pivotal role in the success of the Louisville women’s basketball program. His game scouts are as descriptive and detailed as you will find across the country, and they have helped Louisville to ranked victories over Stanford, UConn, LSU, Oregon and many others. In addition to his detailed scouts, Purcell has made player development and recruiting one of his calling cards during his many years of success.
During Purcell’s tenure at Louisville, Purcell has had 10 players selected in the WNBA Draft, including six between 2019-21, tied with Baylor for the most draft picks in that stretch.
He has worked closely with the guards while at Louisville. Purcell helped guide Shoni Schimmel to several All-America honors. Schimmel became the Atlanta Dream’s eighth overall pick in the WNBA Draft. Purcell also worked closely with 2019 No. 2 overall pick Asia Durr, a two-time ACC Player of the Year who also earned WBCA All-America honors during her junior and senior seasons.
Purcell was instrumental in the recruitment and development of Jazmine Jones. She became the fourth Cardinal ever selected in the first round of the WNBA Draft when she was picked 12th overall by the New York Liberty in the 2020 draft. During her senior campaign Jones was named to the All-ACC First Team, All-ACC Defensive Team, All-ACC Tournament Team and All-ACC Academic Team while playing more games in a Cardinal uniform than any player in program history.
Purcell also worked closely with Dana Evans, who became the second player in program history to win multiple Player of the Year honors and the third to earn WBCA All-American honors. During her junior season, Evans became the first player in ACC history to be named the ACC Player of the Year after being named the Sixth Player of the Year the season prior.
Purcell has shown the ability to recruit worldwide with his innate ability to connect with elite prospects. He has landed the nation’s top recruit on two separate occasions with two different programs. Purcell inked top-rated prospect Kaela Davis in 2013 at Georgia Tech, and the most recently, landed the highly-sought-after Durr at Louisville in 2015.
All nine signing classes that Purcell has helped recruit have been ranked in the top 15 by ESPN. Of those nine classes, four were ranked inside the top 10, highlighted by the No. 1 class in 2015, the No. 4 class in 2017, the No. 6 class in 2016 and the No. 8 class in 2014. Even more impressive, of the 15 McDonald’s All-Americans in Louisville’s history, 13 were recruited by Purcell.
Before arriving in Louisville for the 2013-14 season, Purcell spent six seasons at Georgia Tech, serving as the team’s video coordinator from 2007-09 before transitioning to an assistant coach role. While at Georgia Tech, Purcell helped guide several student-athletes to postseason honors, including Alex Montgomery and Tyaunna Marshall.
Under the leadership of Purcell, Montgomery was named the ACC Sixth Player of the Year, earned a spot on the All-ACC First Team and the All-ACC Defensive Team and was the No. 10 pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft. Purcell helped Marshall develop into a WBCA All-American honorable mention. She was also chosen to the All-ACC First Team, All-ACC Defensive Team, and the All-Freshman Team. Marshall was also picked to the Third Team Freshman All-America team by the Full Court Press.
Purcell spent two seasons at Tulsa (2005-07), where he played a significant role in the development of forward Jillian Robbins. Under Purcell’s guidance, Robbins grew into one of the top post players in the country. She earned All-America honorable mention honors and was named both the C-USA Player of the Year and the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year.
Although Purcell comes to Starkville with numerous coaching accolades to his name, being part of the community and giving back is something that he treats with just as much passion as he does coaching. Purcell has volunteered in his community throughout his career and has spoken at multiple events, including appearances with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and multiple fundraising events. He also enjoys sharing his experiences and lessons he has learned throughout his coaching journey with young coaches at the WBCA Roundtable at the Final Four. He was elected to serve on the 2019-20 WBCA Assistant Coaches Committee and participated in Next Chair, a professional gathering of the country’s top assistant coaches and administrators.
Purcell will continue coaching Louisville through the remainder of the 2021-22 postseason as the Cardinals are projected as a No. 1 seed in the Wichita Region, according to the latest bracketology released on March 12. Purcell will formally be introduced to the Mississippi State fanbase at a press conference following the conclusion of the Louisville women’s basketball season.
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