Mavs hire Wagner to coach women’s hoops
Taylor Wagner experienced the NJCAA women’s national basketball tournament this past season.
Now he wants to see what the NCAA Division II women’s national playoffs are all about.
“One thing that’s important, and this is something I talked about with some of the girls, is reaching the national tournament and being one of those top eight teams in the region and have a chance to win a postseason game,” said Wagner, who was hired Wednesday as the new women’s basketball coach at Colorado Mesa University. “It would be awesome to go. A lot of the pieces are there, and we’ve got great players. It doesn’t need to be a few years down the road.”
Wagner, 36, replaces Roger Walters, who resigned this spring and is now the boys coach at Rifle High School.
“It’s funny, every coach you call, every A.D. that are good friends that you call, you keep hearing his name,” CMU Athletic Director Butch Miller said.
“They talk about what a great person he is, and you look at the record, he’s the all-time winningest coach there (187-63 in eight seasons, 88-12 at home). His name was impressive, and his resume is second to none.
“It was funny just how people reacted when he came here. He’s just a great person.”
Wagner led Otero Junior College to a 33-3 record this past season and an eighth-place finish in the 16-team NJCAA Division I national tournament.
With 11 players returning this season, including All-RMAC and All-Central Region forward Kelsey Sigl (18.3 points, 6.2 rebounds) and All-RMAC guard Katrina Selsor (11.3 points, 6.3 rebounds), both seniors, the Mavericks believe they will contend for an RMAC title.
“From what I’ve heard, he’s a winner, and that’s really what we need at this point with our talent,” Sigl said. “I’m just really stoked about it.”
Sigl was out of town when Wagner interviewed and left a message with him Wednesday evening to introduce herself.
“I know that in the meeting the girls said he was really concerned with the seniors having a good last year,” she said. “That meant a lot. He was the only coach to mention that.
“It was hard because you’re nervous and anxious to see who it’s going to be, and everyone was on a different level.
“The freshmen are worried because they have four years with this coach, and Katrina and Effo (Baker) and I are worried because we only have one year with this coach.”
Junior center Hanna Bowden (4.8 points, 5.7 rebounds) met Wagner during the interview process and said she’s excited about what he’ll bring to the Mavericks, who finished 13-14 this past season and lost in the first round of the RMAC tournament.
“Of the four we met with, I liked him the best,” she said. “I think he’ll bring a good intensity to the program, and I think he’ll push us hard. He’s definitely a coach who wants to win. He’ll be good for all of us. He’ll keep up the whole family aspect of our team.”
Wagner will be in Grand Junction after the July 4 holiday for a few days to meet the rest of his team, sign his contract and start looking for a home. He and his wife, Emillie, have four daughters, ages 7, 6, 3 and 7 months.
He grew up in Sandy, Utah, playing at Alta High School, and was visiting family on vacation when he was offered the job.
“I’ve always felt Mesa would be a hidden gold mine out there. It’s a great college town and has the potential to be really good for the women’s basketball program on the national level,” Wagner said.
He wants to continue Walters’ vision of recruiting high-character players who do well on the court and in the classroom.
“I want everyone to be proud of it, the coaching staff, community, players, athletic department,” Wagner said. “The kids are going to have great character on the floor, look like a team in the community and on campus, be those kids that everybody likes.”