A 57-56 win against Lamar University on Nov. 30 gave Women’s Basketball Head Coach Faith Mimnaugh her 300th win at Cal Poly. She is the program’s longest-tenured head coach, with this season being her 23rd at the helm.
In her tenure, Cal Poly competed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history in 2013. Three teams coached by Mimnaugh have also been invited to Women’s National Invitation Tournament since 2011. Cal Poly’s record of 108-70 in Big West Conference play since 2009 is second among all Big West schools during that period.
When asked about her milestone win after a Dec. 3 practice, Mimnaugh was relaxed in her demeanor, thinking about the last 23 years. She reflected on relationships built within the athletics department and most importantly, she said, with her players.
“The students have been the ones that have made all the baskets and won all the games,” Mimnaugh said. “I just am along for the ride.”
The 23-year ride has seen bonds formed that go beyond playing days, with both current and former players speaking high praise of their coach. Senior forward Alicia Roufosse said it was “awesome” to be a part of Mimnaugh’s 300th win. Roufosse said she plays for both the university and Mimnaugh.
“I don’t think you really get that at other schools,” Roufosse said. “It’s more very individualistic if you want to get a win and stuff like that. So the fact that we’re actually going and wanting to get the wins for her, I think that says a lot too.”
Junior forward Kirsty Brown echoed her teammate’s sentiments about Mimnaugh as well.
“She cares about us on the court, obviously, but more just as people,” Brown said. “And that’s something I value as a coach because I know she has my best interests at heart on the court and just in life.”
Rescheduling practices for class lectures, allowing players to attend career fairs if practice conflicts or even having assistant coaches drive players so they can attend class are all part of Mimnaugh’s approach to coaching.
“Even on your worst days, she’s going to be your biggest advocate,” Roufosse said. “I think that’s so special, and that really brings out our full potential as players and as a team.”
Associate head coach Kari Duperron played under Mimnaugh from 1999 to 2003. Mimnaugh’s two other coaches, Kristina Santiago Bennett and Ashlee Stewart, also played for her while at Cal Poly.
Duperron said Mimnaugh was, and still is, a fierce competitor. However, she is also loving and caring where all the players want to win for her as well.
“She does a great job of building a culture where everybody cares for each other and creates a true family,” Duperron said.
The team culture comes from Mimnaugh’s past experiences with her own coaches. Seeing how much they cared for her, Mimnaugh said, is why she wants to do the same for many of her players now.
“We’re on this earth for a short time and the difference that we can make in one person’s life can be kind of like that butterfly wing where you can change one person and then they change another,” Mimnaugh said. “All of a sudden you’ve got a whole community that’s believing and working together and reaching different goals that they perhaps never thought possible because they’re now reliant upon others. They’re not just trying to do it all by themselves.”