Casey Kushiyama has worked under some of the best basketball coaches the Northwest Conference has ever produced.
He played on the men’s team at Linfield College under Larry Doty, who has since retired. And he learned the ropes of coaching at Whitworth under former men’s coach Jim Hayford, and current women’s coaches Michael Meek (George Fox) and Michelle Ferenz (Whitman).
And now it is Kushiyama’s turn to lead his own program — at the University of Puget Sound.
The Loggers announced Kushiyama, 34, as their new women’s coach, replacing Loree Payne, who resigned last month to take the head coaching job at Northern Arizona University.
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“This team is really, really talented,” Kushiyama said. “It will be just a small step to get them to the next level.”
And Kushiyama would know — he was on the Whitman staff last season that prepared for UPS in the postseason, beating the Loggers in both the NWC championship game and then in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament.
The Honolulu, Hawaii, native spent the past five seasons as Ferenz’s top assistant. He was the program’s primary recruiting contact, and split all the scouting-report duties with the longtime coach down the middle for conference play. He also worked with the Blues’ backcourt players.
Kushiyama has a fantastic set of returning guards in all-NWC first-teamer Samone Jackson and Caitlin Malvar.
“We are going to be very similar (to what Payne did) and run,” Kushiyama said. “Kids want to play fast. I want to play fast. That makes it more enjoyable for them, and they want to be part of a program like that.”
Kushiyama becomes just the fourth UPS women’s coach hired in the past 30 years.
“Our national search produced some strong candidates, but Casey continued to pull ahead with his connection to regionally and nationally successful programs, his ability to recruit outstanding student-athletes, and his appreciation and understanding of the mission of a selective liberal arts college and NCAA Division III,” UPS athletic director Amy Hackett said. “That made him our undeniable top choice.”