Harkleroad brings fast paced style to women’s basketball

Satchi Hover

For Bunky Harkleroad, the first year head coach of Sacramento State women’s basketball team, life has been much like his coaching style; fast paced.

Born on Sept. 22, 1971 in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Harkleroad discovered his basketball knowledge at a young age.

His mother was an administrative assistant for National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics hall of fame coach Roland Wierwille at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, while his father was a referee who taught him the technicalities of the game.

After back injuries derailed his playing career when he was just a freshman at Berea, Harkleroad turned his attention to coaching.

“After having surgery on my back and the wear and tear, I started coaching my sophomore year with middle school teams and youth teams,” Harkleroad said.

While coaching was not his original intention, Harkleroad learned to develop an appreciation for the lifestyle.

“I didn’t really set out to be a coach but I always loved basketball,” he said. “Then a friend of mine that turned out to be a great mentor reached out to me and asked me if I would help him coach his middle school boys basketball team.”

Harkleroad gained a great deal of experience in the beginning stages of his coaching career.

“I was young and a little over-ambitious, but I learned so much then that I still use to this day,” he said. “Teaching and coaching at a school that didn’t have a lot of resources, you learned you had to set up chairs, sweep the floor, maybe even get your kids to practice.”

Such challenges did not deter him from his pursuit of coaching.

“You had to do things that weren’t going to be done for you but I would not trade those days for anything,” Harkleroad said.

His path would lead him to a head coaching job at his alma mater, where he would lead Berea College to nine successful seasons with an overall record of 147-93.

After Berea, he would take the head coaching job at Glenville State College in West Virginia. It was here that Harkleroad made a name for himself in a number of ways.  

As head coach of the Pioneers, his team led NCAA Division II in scoring as well as three pointers made per game in three of the four seasons Harkleroad was at the helm.

In 2013, he was named West Virginia Intercollegiate Association Conference Coach of the Year as well as a finalist for National Coach of the Year.

Harkleroad compiled an overall record of 258-120 in 13 seasons at Berea College and Glenville State.

When coach Jamie Craighead announced her resignation from Sac State to take the vacant position at San Jose State, Harkleroad was a top choice.

“It all happened so quickly that it was a situation where the university had to do some homework on me and I had to do some homework on the university and the history of the program here,” Harkleroad said.

While he admits the process was a fast one, he could tell right away that the fit seemed right for both parties involved.

“It was boom boom boom and happened so fast, but it seemed like the fit was there,” he said. “The situation was unique to say the least.”

His players have adapted to their new coach’s philosophy and scheme, taking in everything he has taught them thus far.

Senior guard and co-captain Allie Moreno praised Harkleroad for his hands-on approach to the game.

“He’s been awesome getting to know and he’s still really aggressive on the court and ready to go which is awesome, because we’re ready to go,” she said.

Assistant coach Bill Baxter took the same liking to Harkleroad’s style when he first had the opportunity to meet him.

“It’s been an easy transition because of the similarities between him and coach Craighead, but this is cranking it up with more threes and shots per game; and actually even more running,” Baxter said.

Baxter was so impressed upon the first meeting that he had to tell his wife about it.

“I couldn’t have wished for a perfect scenario. I went home and told my wife, ‘This is going to work out perfectly.’ It was great.”

Harkleroad wants to bring excitement and his fast-paced style to the Hornets.

“Our philosophy here is a very aggressive, up-tempo fast paced style of basketball that relies heavily on the three point shot, full court pressure and frequent substitutions,” he said.

Something the team has appreciated to this point is their coach’s honesty and his philosophy that players come first.

“I’m very honest with my players and we’re quick to point out when they do something well and quick to correct them when they don’t,” Harkleroad said. “I think I always try to connect with my players and let them know we’re here to make them better and to serve them.”

Basketball has run in the family blood for Harkleroad and he’s taken on a new perspective since coaching. His appreciation and love for the game has developed since his beginning days and he knows he has been lucky in that regard.

“I’ve got an outstanding family and three healthy kids. Ive been blessed in so many ways its ridiculous,” Harkleroad said. “It’s not anything I have done, I have been incredibly lucky along the way and very fortunate.”