Athletic Director Michael “Torre” Chisholm named Sherri Murrell the new Viking women’s head basketball coach on Sunday. Murrell will replace Charity Elliot who, after three seasons as Portland State’s head coach, resigned on June 8 in favor of a position at UC San Diego.
Murrell, 39, has spent the last four seasons in Pullman, Wash., coaching the Washington State Cougars, where she produced seven All-Pacific-10 Conference players, as well as 18 athletes that received academic recognition.
Before assuming the head coaching duties at WSU, Murrell enjoyed four consecutive winning seasons at the University of the Pacific, in Stockton, Calif. During her tenure, from 1998-2003, she improved the Tigers’ win total dramatically, taking over a program marred with two straight losing seasons to a 19-11 record in 2003, the school’s highest win total since 1995.
Murrell, a Redmond, Ore. native, is not a stranger to the South Park Blocks. She was Portland State’s lead assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under Jenny Yopp from 1996-1998, the Vikings’ first two seasons competing in the Big Sky Conference.
Elliott, who coached the team for three years, went 27-57 in her career, including a dismal first season in which the Vikings went 3-23 overall and 1-13 in the conference play. The following two seasons produced more victories, highlighted by back-to-back 12-win seasons and a solid 8-8 record against Big Sky foes last year. The Vikings competed in the Big Sky Tournament during the past two years.
“I have nothing bad to say about the experience at PSU. This was 100 percent about family.” Elliott said. “You kind of chase what society says that you should be going after, but in the end you should be doing what makes you happy.”
Elliott said she expects to be in San Diego with the majority of her family for the rest of her coaching career. At Portland State, however, it was a tearful departure for the former Viking coach and her players.
“It’s really tough, you really become a family after spending so much time together and you get so close,” said Elliott. “They [the team] also understand that there are a lot of things that are more important than basketball and just winning. Sometimes your life and your family need to take priority.”
On court, success wasn’t all Elliott brought to Portland State. She used her enthusiastic passion for the game to entice many talented players to the South Park Blocks. A testament to her recruiting savvy, the former coach recruited and coached the last two Big Sky Outstanding Freshman award winners: forward Kelsey Kahle two years ago and last season’s exceptional point guard Claire Faucher.
Over her five-year head-coaching career, Elliott has been known for reinvigorating troubled programs with tough coaching and an exceptional eye for talent. She brought many exciting talents to the Vikings that include shooting guard Jenni Ritter, centers Janie Bos and Erin Yankus, and two Oregon State transfers, guard Stephisha Walton and center Kerstin Brosterhous.
She will now lead the Division II Tritons of University of California, San Diego, who went 27-5 last season and advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four. She succeeds Coach Janell Jones, who posted a 50-10 record in her two seasons with UC, San Diego. Jones left for a head coaching position at Mercer University, a Division I program located in Macon, Ga.
“I think that coaching is coaching and players are players,” Elliott said. “Nothing will change that, no matter what division you play for.”
Elliott’s legacy as a Viking will truly be realized during the next few years. She has left Murrell and the young, talented Vikings in a fantastic position to fill the trophy case with more hardware than anyone expects.