One day very soon, perhaps Thursday at Michigan State, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder will win her 600th career game.
Now in her 13th season at Iowa and 29th overall, Bluder chalks the victory total to longevity.
“If you’re in it long enough, you’re going to get milestones,” Bluder said. “It has taken me a long time to get there.”
Once she wins that game, Bluder will join a list of 41 other womens’ basketball coaches, across all divisions, who have won that many games.
The list for 700 wins is just 16 names long, and for 800, there are just seven.
Iowa assistant coach Jeni Fitzgerald said that’s an attainable mark.
“I think she’s going to do it for a long, long time as long as she continues to win,” Fitzgerald said. “She loves it here at Iowa.”
Fitzgerald and assistant coach Jan Jensen both said Bluder doesn’t give herself enough credit.
“She’s one of the rare coaches that’s it’s never, ever about her,” Jensen said. “Never has been or will be. She just coaches because she loves to compete. She never really talks about it.”
Bluder, naturally, credited her assistants for much her success.
“Jan and Jenni have been around for 21 years and are every bit as important as I am in every one of those victories,” Bluder said. “So I think that’s the real story.”
On Tuesday, Bluder related her excitement when she was 24 years old, getting her first job at St. Ambrose in Davenport. Bluder said she was offered $2,400 annually but used her “unbelievable negotiation skills to get it up to $2,500 for the year.”
After six years at St. Ambrose (169-36) Bluder moved to Drake, where she went 187-106 over 10 seasons. Her record is 243-148 over 13 years at Iowa.
“I am still so excited to be able to be the Hawkeyes’ coach,” Bluder said. “It really is a dream.”
“I think it’s an incredible feat,” Fitzgerald said. “She’s an incredible coach. She’s done well at every school she’s ever been to. She does it with great kids and the right way. I think Iowa is very blessed to have her here.”
“She never gives herself enough credit for what she’s accomplished and how she’s done it. It’s her leadership that’s made that happen over all the years.”
The longest-tenured coach in the Big Ten, Bluder will be only the fifth coach to win 600 games with significant Big Ten ties. The others are C. Vivian Stringer (Iowa 1984-95), Jim Foster (Ohio State 2003-present), Rene Portland (Penn State 1981-2007), and Theresa Grentz (Illinois 1996-2007).
“That is an amazing number,” Iowa sophomore Samantha Logic said. “Not very many people have that stat right now. And the ones she’s with … just elite company. That’s a lot of games to coach and win.”
Iowa (13-4, 2-1) travels to Michigan State (14-2, 2-1) on Thursday for a Big Ten showdown before returning to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to face Purdue (14-2, 3-0).
“Every time we win an award, she’s the biggest supporter for us,” senior Morgan Johnson said. “So for us to support her, … we’ll find someone to buy a cake. Oh, there will be cake.”
Johnson and Logic both were unaware of the upcoming milestone, because Bluder hasn’t said a word.
Bluder did know, however, since the fifth game of the season.
“But I did know … it was coming up because before the Robert Morris game, I was down there talking to their coaches, and one of the assistants, a kind of young guy, said to me, ‘Wow, you almost have 600 wins,’” Bluder said. “I was like, yeah. He goes, ‘How many more years you got in ya?’
“I’ve never been asked that before by another coach, how many more years do you have left in ya. I hope I have a lot left in me.”
Jensen said the icons of the game have the Final Fours and NCAA titles … but Bluder should be highly regarded.
“You take for granted people who have been doing it so long, been doing it the right way, and have a tremendous track record of not just the stars enjoying playing for them, but the kids that never see the court,” Jensen said. “I think that’s a pretty cool aspect. Kids enjoy playing for her. That connection gets overlooked. The bottom line is, what have you done?”
Bluder has been to nine NCAA Tournaments in her 13 years at Iowa and won a Big Ten title in 2008.
“Any time you get one of those big milestones when you coach, it’s just a testament to all the blood, sweat and tears,” Jensen said. “It’s a good time to stop and look around and think of all the people you’ve gotten to coach, experience those things with.
“She’s one of the really good people who do a really good job for all the right reasons.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes women's basketball