Carrie Daniels, a member of Austin Peay’s first Ohio Valley Conference Championship basketball team and NCAA participant in 1996, enters her seventh season as head coach at her alma mater. She already has taken the Lady Govs to two NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament appearances in her brief career and is intent on building a program that will compete annually for the OVC’s regular-season and tournament titles.
When she led the Lady Govs to the 2009 NCAA Tournament, Daniels became the first former Austin Peay student-athlete to take an Austin Peay team to a NCAA Championship. One year later, she led the Lady Govs to the NCAA Tournament again, becoming the second head coach in program history to lead a team to multiple tournament appearances.
In addition, Daniels is one of 26 coaches in NCAA Division I history to have played and coached in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship. All told, she has made five appearances in the NCAA tournament – twice as a head coach at Austin Peay, twice while an assistant at Western Kentucky and once as a player at Austin Peay.
Daniels’ led the Lady Govs to three consecutive 10-win OVC campaigns before suffering a setback in 2011-12. Austin Peay opened the campaign with back-to-back wins and even showed promise in a close loss at nationally-ranked Louisville. Yet, the Lady Govs saw their season slowly slip away as they strung consecutive victories together only three times after the opening back-to-back wins. The Lady Govs were competitive all season, with 20 of their 31 games decided by less than 10 points but they were only 8-12 in those outings. Austin Peay was again a tough out in the conference tournament, winning a double-overtime decision against Morehead State – thanks largely to a 38-point outing by guard Whitney Hanley – before falling to Murray State in the second round.
The Lady Govs 2010-11 effort was a battle to find scoring after the loss of two of the team’s top three scorers from the previous season. Those losses forced Daniels to turn to two juniors – Hanley and forward Jasmine Rayner – to make up over 26 points in lost scoring. The team struggled again in the non-conference portion of its schedule and even early in the OVC slate. However, Hanley and Rayner settled into their roles in time for a February surge where the team posted a 6-1 record and secured fifth place in a close conference race. The Lady Govs carried that momentum into the OVC Tournament, winning its first two games with dominant first-half performances. However, the Lady Govs could not overcome the fatigue of playing its third game in as many days and fell to Tennessee Tech in the tournament’s semifinals.
Daniels saw her 2009-10 team suffer through a see-saw campaign. The Lady Govs underperformed through a tougher-than-usual non-conference slate – they faced a program-record four nationally-ranked foes – posting just one win in 11 tries. After a brutal 3-10 start to the season (OVC-opening wins against Southeast Missouri and Eastern Illinois providing a glimmer of hope), Austin Peay turned to the bulk of its OVC slate. The Lady Govs were picked to finish second in the OVC’s preseason poll and fell just shy of that expectation, finishing third with an 11-7 record – both marks an improvement over the previous season’s finish and record. However, the Lady Govs showed again they could flip on the switch in the OVC tournament, claiming the championship with wins against second-seeded Morehead State in the semifnals and top-seeded Eastern Illinois in the title game for the second consecutive season.
Her 2008-09 squad reached the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship, despite being picked to finish ninth in the OVC’s preseason poll and fielding a team with one senior, one junior, five sophomores and six freshmen. The Lady Govs suffered through an up-and-down campaign but finished tied for fifth in the league’s regular-season while posting one of Division I’s most improved overall records. Under her guidance, Austin Peay became the first No. 5 seed to advance to the OVC women’s basketball championship game, ultimately winning the championship while defeating the fourth-, first- and second-seeded teams.
The 2007-08 campaign began with the Lady Govs winning four of their first seven games before an overtime loss to Eastern Kentucky drove the team into a tailspin from which it did not recover. Daniels was forced to use 12 different lineups during the season with 10 of the team’s 11 rostered players recording at least one start.
Daniels first season at the helm would have tested the mettle of many a coach. She used 13 different starting lineups during the 2006-07 schedule as she strived to find the right combination each outing. Then, Daniels had only one player average double figures for the season and that was senior walk-on Alicia Watson’s 10.0 points per game. She entered the regular season’s final game needing a victory to secure a spot in the Ohio Valley Conference’s postseason tournament, which they accomplished. Despite those tribulations, Daniels guided her team within four points of becoming the first team to upend the league’s top-seed in the tournament’s opening round.
Daniels was named Lady Govs head coach, June 16, 2006, after spending seven seasons as an assistant coach at Western Kentucky.
Daniels’ 10 years of coaching experience prior to joining the Austin Peay family – all as a Division I assistant – gave her a clear perspective of the program she intends to establish at her alma mater.
“My vision for this program and its future is for every player that comes through to have a positive and fun experience,” said Daniels. “I want each player to have the opportunity to compete for championships year in and year out. Most importantly I want quality student-athletes that will work hard in the classroom, earn their degree and be successful in life.”
Daniels, a 1996 graduate of Austin Peay, was an assistant coach at Western Kentucky from 1999-06 and worked primarily with the team’s guards, prepared the program’s defensive strategy and coordinated recruiting efforts. She served as an assistant with three different coaches at Western Kentucky and was a member of post-season appearances in each of her seven seasons, including NCAA tournament appearances following the 1999-00 and 2002-03 seasons and a WNIT semifinal appearance in 2005-06.
During her time in Bowling Green, Ky., she helped the Lady Toppers amass a 146-78 (.652) win-loss mark. Included in that tally were four 20-win seasons, four Sun Belt East Division titles, one Sun Belt tournament championship, two NCAA tournament appearances (2000 and 2003) and five WNIT tournament appearances (2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006).
It is her success as a player and assistant coach that brought her back to her alma mater.
“My love and desire to see Austin Peay succeed attracted me to this job,” said Daniels. “Austin Peay helped mold me into the person I am today and my experiences as a player have helped me cope and deal with situations I still face today. Austin Peay is where I got my start and I feel indebted to give back to a school that has given me so much.”
“The challenges with this job are never ending, but that’s why we do it,” Daniels said. “It’s a challenge to win within the OVC, it’s such a competitive conference with great rivalries that it’s anyone’s game on any given night. The coaches bring their teams ready to compete each game. The off court the relationships among the coaches is something very special.
“I believe the opportunities as head coach at Austin Peay are something that can be very special and rewarding. It is a program that over the past 15 years has evolved into a strong contender each year and I hope I can help bring many championships to add to the already-established tradition.”
Daniels joined the Western Kentucky coaching staff after serving three seasons (1996-99) as an assistant coach and director of basketball operations at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. She began her coaching career with former APSU head coach LaDonna Wilson-McClain, who left Austin Peay for UNLV after the 1995-96 season, and continued her tenure with current UNLV head coach Regina Miller. She was a member of the coaching staff which led the Lady Rebels’ to Division I’s most improved record in 1998-99, turning a 4-23 record into a 17-11 mark, a 12½-game improvement.
Daniels entered the coaching ranks after a brilliant collegiate career at Austin Peay, where she was a four-year starter (1991-96) while playing under her maiden name, Carrie Thompson. At the time of her graduation, she was only the second player in school history to compile 1,000 points, 400 rebounds, 300 assists and 300 steals during her career. Daniels is one of of the first 10 APSU women’s basketball players to score 1,000 points, finishing with 1,118 points. Ten years after her career ended, she remains ranked among the career top 25 in 15 statistical categories.
She earned the 1996 Joy Award given to the top senior athlete at Austin Peay, after helping lead the Lady Govs to their first NCAA Tournament appearance as a senior in 1996. Daniels averaged 10.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game during the 1995-96 campaign. She scored a team-best 14 points in the Lady Govs NCAA Tournament first-round game at Clemson.
In 1995, she received the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics Wilma Rudolph Award, a national award presented to honor student athletes who have overcome great personal, academic, and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics. She missed most of the 1994-95 season after receiving a medical redshirt for a heart ailment.
A stellar prep player at Scottsburg (Ind.) High School, Daniels earned All-America recognition from Women’s Basketball News Service after averaging 17 points, 6.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game as a senior.
Daniels is married to Billy Daniels, a former Austin Peay men’s basketball player. They have a son, Dalton.