The sport is women’s college basketball. And when you think about the women’s college game, names like Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma come to mind.
Summitt has won eight NCAA championships. Along the way, she won three consecutive titles from 1996-1998.
Auriemma has also won three consecutive titles among his six overall, those coming in the 2002-2004 tournament years.
Kim Muhl has topped them both in consistency, winning his fourth consecutive national championship with Kirkwood Community College of Cedar Rapids, Iowa March 20th.
I’ll admit it now; I’m more than a little biased. I attended Kirkwood, and am a long time friend of the assistant women’s coach. But putting that aside, this recent accomplishment likely flies beneath the radar of most and should be noted.
Kim is the head women’s coach at Kirkwood. His team recently won their fourth consecutive national title (and sixth overall) at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II level. It’s probably not a stretch to say Kirkwood and the NJCAA doesn’t possess a large fan base like the NCAA teams do. But to understand what is entailed in winning four consecutive championships at the junior college level, you have to appreciate the obstacles that make this type of success so notable.
In Division II where Kirkwood competes, you can give scholarships for books and tuition only. That puts them at an immediate disadvantage when recruiting against Division I NJCAA institutions that are allowed to also provide housing and meals.
At a junior college, you have players a maximum of two years, which means you have to revamp your team every season. No recruiting a player or two for depth at already established positions. Junior colleges typically lose half their team every season.
Yet Muhl and long-time assistant Joe Hruska have won six national titles at the Division II level, tying Illinois Central College with the most of any school, at any level.
Individually, Muhl’s recent title puts him in a class by himself, passing Illinois Central’s retired coach Lorene Ramsey, who won five during her career.
If my math is correct, Muhl has an overall record of 624-112 during his tenure at Kirkwood, an astounding .8478 winning percentage. He’s the winningest active coach in NJCAA Division II. And he puts up results like this every year, with Kirkwood finishing no worse than 4th since the 2001-02 season.
A nice touch, friends of the program secretly raised in excess of $15,000 through alumni and fan donations and established the Kim S. Muhl Endowed Scholarship in his honor. This was all done without his knowledge, with a surprise announcement occurring before a home game this past season. This honor clearly illustrates the positive impact he’s had on former players (many have gone on to four year schools) and supporters along the way, and will be awarded to one women’s basketball player every season.
Something that rarely occurs even for retired coaches at the junior college level, it is a tribute not only to Muhl’s success, but his character as well.
A name you haven’t heard before? You should remember it now.
Putting it all in perspective, I’ve only found one other college basketball coach in my research that’s won more than three consecutive national championships. His name is John Wooden, who won seven consecutive titles at UCLA between 1967 and 1973.
Kim Muhl just won his fourth. And counting…
Note: After writing this article, I discovered that Washington University (St. Louis) coach Nancy Fahey won four consecutive NCAA Division III national championships (and five overall) between 1998-2001.