Maryann Mitts is the winningest coach in Missouri Southern
history. Under Mitts’ guidance, the Lions have averaged 17
wins during her 11 years at the helm and have finished in the upper
echelon of the highly competitive Mid-America Intercollegiate
Athletics Association seven of those 11
years. In 16 years as a collegiate head coach,
Mitts has amassed an impressive 13 winning
seasons. Notable, the Lions have also narrowly
missed the NCAA post-season tournament in six of those 11
Despite not being the outcome Mitts wanted in 2011-12, the Lions still were competitive, regardless of the final record. Only eight of the losses were by more than ten points, and the Lions were only out-scored by 4.5 points on average. Junior forward Erin Rice was an All-MIAA selection, and the team had five players with a 3.0 GPA or higher, including two with GPA's of 3.5 or higher.
The 2010-11 season saw the Lions’ once again among the leaders of the MIAA in defense. Southern was fourth in scoring defense with an average of 63.0 points per game, fifth in 3-point field goal percentage defense giving up .314 (158-of-503), fifth in rebounding defense with 36.0 rebounds per game, fifth in steals with 8.00 per contest, and fourth in turnover margin with a +1.56 margin.
The season was highlighted by an overtime victory over then 20th-ranked and defending NCAA D-II National Champions the Emporia State University Lady Hornets, 82-74, and an upset of then 18th-ranked and eventual NCAA D-II National Semi-Finalist Northwest Missouri State Bearcats, 70-62, to give Coach Mitts her 250th career win.
Against ESU, Southern would battle back from a 11-0 deficit to take a 32-30 at the half. The Lions’ got double digits from senior guard Jasmine Lovejoy, who had a career-high 38 points, and sophomores Erin Rice, 18, and Kelby Fritz, 11. The win over Emporia State was the first since a 90-71 win over the then 16th-ranked Lady Hornets in Joplin in 2007-08.
In the final home game of the 2010-11 season the Lions were down 11 at the half to the Bearcats, 39-28, but the Lions would hold Northwest Missouri to just 23 second half points on the way to their second win over a ranked opponent that season. Southern out rebounded the Bearcats 44-36 overall, and 23-15 in the second stanza of play, going into the locker room both teams pulled down 21 boards. The Lions received double digits in points from Lovejoy, 20, Rice, 18, and senior Afton Baldwin with 10.
Overall, Mitts has compiled a 175-132 (.570) record in 11 years with the Lions. She holds a 258-188 (.578) mark in 17 years as a collegiate head coach. Mitts currently ranks amongst the Top 50 of all Division II active coaches in all-time victories.
In 2009-10 the Lions displayed Coach Mitts' signature again finishing as one of the top defensive teams in the MIAA. Southern finished fourth in scoring defense (allowing 63.6 ppg), third in field goal percentage defense (.375), fourth in three-point field goal percentage defense (.296), second in rebounding defense (33.6 rpg), and third in rebounding margin (+5.5). The 2009-10 campaign marks the ninth year in a row that a Coach Mitts led Lions squad has finished in the top half of the MIAA in defense. This defense was paramount when the Lions travelled to then-ranked #6 Washburn on January 9th and defeated the Lady Blues in Topeka, Kan. This marked the second time in three years that the Lions have traveled to Topeka and came home with a win, after going without a win there in the previous 10 seasons. The Lions finished the season with the fourth best overall record in the MIAA at 15-13. Half of those Southern’s losses came at the hands of NCAA post-season qualifying teams that year, Northeastern State University (1), University of Central Missouri (2), NCAA D-II National Champion Emporia State University (2), and Washburn University (1).
In 2008-09, Mitts guided the Lions to a 19-10 mark and for the
second straight year, narrowly missed a berth into the NCAA
Regional Tournament. That season saw the Lions run off seven
straight victories within the MIAA, their longest such streak since
the 2003-04 season. The Lions wound up fourth in the MIAA, marking
the third time in the last four years that the Lions have finished
fourth in the MIAA standings. The Lions also recorded an upset
victory over then No. 3-ranked Washburn and went on to defeat
Central Missouri in the MIAA Tournament for their first win in the
conference tourney since the 2001-02 campaign. The Lions continued
their stingy defensive prowess under Mitts, finishing as the
second-ranked defensive squad in the MIAA for the second straight
season and for the fifth time in Mitts’ eight years at
In 2007-08, the Lions were ranked as high as #16 in the WBCA Top 25, setting a record for the highest ranking ever by the Missouri Southern Women’s Basketball program. In addition, they held a spot in the regional rankings, placing between second and sixth for all five weeks that the poll was published. The Lions held this prominence until Selection Sunday, when they were denied making their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 12 years. MSSU finished the MIAA season in a three-way tie for fourth with a 9-9 conference mark. The Lions continued with their impressive defensive ways, being noted as the top-ranked defensive squad in the NCAA Division II at the break. The 07-08 campaign also featured the Lions winning at MIAA power Washburn for the first time since 1995 and starting off the season 9-0 for the first time since the 2003-04 campaign and for only the third time since the 1995-96 season. On January 1, 2008, The Lions were also the only undefeated squad in the South Central Region.
In 2006-07, Mitts helped the Lions overcome an injury-riddled season to post their sixth straight winning record at 14-13, including a tie for fifth place in the MIAA and a sixth consecutive appearance in the MIAA Postseason Tournament.
The 2003-04 campaign marked one of Mitts’ finest seasons at the helm of the Lions, as the squad started the year on a nine-game winning streak, the program’s best start in eight years. Southern posted a 7-1 record in February with wins over three nationally-ranked opponents, a first in MSSU history, and Mitts’ was among several finalists for the Division II Bulletin Women’s National Coach of the Month. The Lions ended the campaign with a 19-9 overall mark, their best record since 1996, and narrowly missed making their first NCAA tournament appearance in eight years. Southern also posted a 10-8 record in MIAA play and earned its fourth straight berth in the conference postseason tournament after placing fifth in the final league standings.
Mitts wasted little time in putting Missouri Southern back on the map both at the conference and regional level. Her first Lion contingent, picked to finish eighth in the MIAA, posted a 17-11 record, the program’s first winning season in five years, and placed fifth in the conference standings. Those 2001-02 Lions advanced to the semifinals of the MIAA postseason tournament before bowing out to eventual NCAA tournament qualifier Missouri Western. The 2002 squad was recognized as one of the NCAA Division II women’s basketball’s most improved teams with a 6.5 game improvement from the previous season.
The eighth head coach in Lion history, Mitts came to Southern from Rockhurst University, where she took a highly successful NAIA program and led it into the ranks of NCAA Division II. In five seasons as head coach at RU, she posted a record of 83-57 (.593) while also serving as the Senior Woman Administrator (SWA) for the athletics department.
While serving as assistant basketball coach, she also initiated and directed the men’s and women’s tennis programs. In three seasons, she led her team to a 41-14 record and two National Tournament appearances while being named Midwest Region Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1996. In 1996, Mitts served as the NAIA Regional Chair as Rockhurst served as the host institution for the NAIA Regional Championships.
After serving as assistant coach at her alma mater from 1993 to
1996, Mitts led the 1996-97 Hawks to an 18-10 record in their first
season as a dual NAIA/NCAA Division II institution. That season
Rockhurst won the National Catholic Basketball Tournament title,
and Mitts was named NCBT Coach of the Year.
For an encore, Mitts led Rockhurst to a 24-7 record in 1997-98. The Lady Hawks won the Midwest Region and advanced to the NAIA Sweet 16, and Mitts was named Regional Coach of the Year. Her next two squads finished at 13-14, and in the 2000-01 season the Lady Hawks were 15-12, 7-5 and fourth in the then newly-established Heartland Conference.
Mitts’ squads have also been successful in the classroom, as her 2001-02 team was ranked ninth in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Academic Top 25, the highest ranking of all MIAA teams. Her 1998-99 Rockhurst squad was No. 1 in the nation academically in NCAA Division II, and her 1999-2000 Lady Hawks were 13th.
The Lions’ mentor believes she has the staff to help bring national prominence to Missouri Southern. She is assisted by Ronda Hubbard, who is beginning her tenth year with the Lions and was elevated to the position of Associate Head Coach prior to the 2009-10 campaign. Hubbard was a former Missouri State University standout and highly successful coach at the high school, Division I and Division II levels, having won back to back Missouri State High Schools Activity Association (MSHSAA) championships at the age of 22 (the youngest coach to accomplish that fate) at Springfield (Mo.) Catholic High School.
Mitts graduated from Rockhurst University in 1992 with a
Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education, and from the
University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1995 with a Master of Arts
degree in higher education administration, emphasis in athletic
administration. Mitts is also a 2004 graduate of the nationally
recognized NCAA Women Coaches Academy and successfully completed
the Dimension II stage of the program in 2005.
As a two-sport standout for the Lady Hawks, Mitts earned all-America honors in volleyball and basketball. She was also Regional Player of the Year in volleyball as a senior, and was a two-time scholastic all-American.
Mitts was an award-winning basketball player at St. Teresa’s Academy in Kansas City, earning All-America and Academic All-America recognition as a senior, and all-state kudos her final two seasons. She was named Kansas City Metro Female Athlete of the Year in 1987 and that same year was named St. Teresa’s “Academy Girl” for outstanding leadership in academics and athletics as well as excellence in moral, ethical and religious characteristics.
In 1996, Mitts was named one of the “Top 29 Young People under 30” by Kansas City Magazine. The following year the Kansas City Sons and Daughters of Columbus honored Mitts as “Female Columbiana of the Year” and “Women in Leadership” for outstanding service.
One of the things Mitts enjoys about Southern is the high level of competition in the MIAA.
“The MIAA offers an extremely challenging and humbling experience on a professional level,” she said “Night in and night out, we are not only competing against some of the best talent in the nation, but our conference has some of the most knowledgeable and successful coaches that would rank up against the best coaches at the major college level.
“Our program has consistently positioned ourselves into the top four of the league. The exciting part of competing at such a high level is that by finishing in the top three in the MIAA, we also position ourselves to be looked upon as one of the top eight in the region and top 20 nationally. It has been, and continues to be, our ultimate goal to represent MSSU in the NCAA postseason.”
In April of 2007, she was appointed the NCAA Regional Chair of the South Central Basketball Championships. In addition to her coaching duties, Mitts serves as co-faculty sponsor of MSSU Catholic Campus Ministry. Mitts is also an instructor of Kinesiology at Missouri Southern and is partnered with head softball coach Bill Gray to oversee the newly formed children’s membership, “The Cub Club”.