Courtesy: UND Athletics Media Relations
Gene Roebuck was hired as the University of North Dakota's women's basketball coach in June 1987 and he soon transformed the program into a Division II powerhouse. Since Roebuck arrived at the helm, UND has gone 607-134 and has won 12 conference championships (11 NCC, one GWC) and in 1997, 1998, and 1999 captured back-to-back-to-back NCAA DII national championships. He has produced the WBCA Player of the Year four times and has guided eight NCC MVPs and one Great West Player of the Year. In addition, 19 players have been named All-America, 52 players were named All-NCC, and four have been named All-GWC.
Roebuck's athletic success began at Velva (N.D.) High School, where he earned 12 letters in football, basketball and baseball. He went on to play both baseball and basketball at Mayville State (N.D.) and earned a degree in physical education and business education in 1969. While at MSU, Roebuck was a four-year letterwinner and three-year starter in basketball. He also excelled in baseball, twice earning all-conference honors and being named to the NAIA District 12 team once. In the fall of 2000, he was inducted into the Mayville State Hall of Fame.
In 1984, Roebuck was hired as the women's basketball and baseball coach at UND-Lake Region College. In addition to leading the women's basketball team to a three-year mark of 87-14, he also guided the Royal baseball team to 1985, 1986 and 1987 North Dakota state baseball championships.
In June of 1987, he left Lake Region to take over as the head women's basketball coach at UND.
Had Roebuck come into a program that was already producing similar results, continuing such success would have been remarkable in itself, but prior to Roebuck's arrival, UND had had 13 seasons of basketball in which the Sioux went 177-161. Seven seasons were finished above .500 and six below. The 1987 team that he inherited had gone 7-20. The seven wins were five fewer than the 12 UND won in 1986, which was down from 23 wins in 1985.
The program had played in a grand total of two NCAA tournament games, losing both, and seemed to be spiraling downward. But Roebuck, who had gone 87-14 in three seasons at UND-Lake Region, got to work establishing the program he thought UND could be. The results were immediate and they were impressive.
The 1988 team opened up winning its first 15 games, including a 61-59 win at Division I Arizona. The Sioux took that perfect record into Fargo for Roebuck's first matchup with North Dakota State, a program that had already achieved the level of success Roebuck thought UND could achieve and even surpass. Though the Sioux lost, 77-70, it was clear to Roebuck and to followers of UND women's basketball that the program was on its way to bigger and better things.
The 1988 team went on to win 22 games and advance to the NCAA regionals for just the third time in the program's history. Roebuck and the Sioux were off and running.
In 1989 the team posted a 19-9 record. Though the 19 wins would be Roebuck's only time not reaching at least 20 wins over the next 20 years behind the bench, it was still a mark that had only been reached by the 1980 (19-8), 1984 (22-7) and 1985 (23-6) UND teams.
The first of two watershed breakthroughs for the program occurred during the 1990 season. The Sioux finished 27-4, Durene Heisler became UND's first NCC MVP and its first All-American, Roebuck won the first of his seven NCC Coach of the Year awards and UND returned to the NCAA tournament. A 93-78 victory over Augustana in the first round was the program's first postseason victory, which was followed by a 90-58 defeat of North Dakota State. Though the Sioux lost to Cal Poly Pomona in the national quarterfinals, UND had reached a new level of expectation.
That same year, Roebuck was also hired as UND's head baseball coach. In his first year at the helm, he led the Sioux to a 99-61-1 record over four seasons and in 1993 he took UND to the Division II College World Series for the first time in school history. Roebuck resigned as baseball coach in July 1993 to concentrate solely on women's basketball.
The UND women's basketball program went 150-27 over the next six years, winning three NCC titles and averaging a remarkable 25 wins per year. The first two steps (compete against the best teams in the North Central Conference and win the NCC championship) of Roebuck's plan were clearly accomplished and the groundwork was now in place for the program's second watershed breakthrough.
It came on March 9, 1997, at North Dakota State in the championship game of the NCAA Division II North Central Regional. The Sioux were in the NCAA tournament for the eighth consecutive year, and if a national championship was to be won, what better place than the Bison Sports Arena? If the Sioux wanted to be the best, they would have to beat the best. NDSU was the four-time defending national champions and had won 58 straight games on its home court.
Down 64-54 with six minutes to play, UND went on a nearly inconceivable 19-2 run to close out the game. The win advanced the Sioux onto the Elite Eight and moved the team up to Roebuck's final step, a national championship. That final step was breached the following weekend at the Elite Eight as the Fighting Sioux captured their first NCAA DII national championship.
Roebuck's teams became accustomed to bringing home hardware. After national championships in 1997, 1998 and 1999, Roebuck guided the 2001 team to within a basket of the Sioux's fourth national title in five seasons. That year, UND took home its first NCC Wells Fargo Finals championship, a crown it held until the conference was extinguished six years later.
The 2005-06 Sioux rolled to a 34-1 record that included a perfect 12-0 mark in North Central Conference play. Roebuck capped the season by being named the 2006 Russell Athletic/WBCA Division II Region Coach of the Year.
In 2006-07, Roebuck surpassed 500 victories at UND and led the Fighting Sioux to a fifth NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Elite Eight appearance in 10 years. Along the way the Sioux also captured a third consecutive NCC title (11th overall), a seventh straight NCC playoff tournament championship and an NCAA North Central Region crown, the latter two coming on UND's home court. It was UND's 19th NCAA appearance under Roebuck, who collected his 10th NCC Coach of the Year award.
That year, the Sioux were recognized by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) for having the Best Fans and Best Facility.
In 2007-08, the Sioux, who went 27-4 and earned a 22nd appearance (19th consecutive) in the NCAA postseason tournament, left the ranks of DII in style. UND was lauded by the WBCA for having the Best Tradition, Best Community Support and Best Pep Band in Division II and was also recognized as the Most Fun to Watch (coach or school). Additionally, Roebuck was cited as the Most Competitive Coach in Division II women's basketball.
Senior center Ashley Langen and junior forward Kierah Kimbrough each earned All-America honors, and Langen was named the Daktronics All-North Central Region Player of the Year. Langen also earned her fourth straight All-North Central Conference selection and shared conference most valuable player honors.
Kimbrough and sophomore guard Alys Seay earned Academic All-NCC honors and were joined by four teammates on the NCC Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll.
Roebuck completed UND's tour of the DII landscape as the winningest coach in DII women's basketball history with a .857 winning percentage.
In 2008, Roebuck's 22nd year at the helm, the Sioux were faced with new challenges as they began the transition from DII to the DI level. The transition meant a change in conference affiliation, new opponents on the schedule, and a quickened pace on the court.
The Fighting Sioux gladly accepted and stepped into their new role with the same hard-work, determination, and winning attitudes that brought them much success in the North Central Conference.
The Fighting Sioux made their NCAA Division I debut with an 18-11 record overall, a 10-11 mark against DI opponents and an undefeated run at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center (BESC) for the first time since it opened in 2004.
The first victory over a DI opponent came on Nov. 14 as UND opened the season with an 80-71 victory over Eastern Michigan in front of nearly 2,000 loyal Sioux fans at the BESC.
Kimbrough, now a senior, finished her highly-decorated career as North Dakota's third-highest scorer all-time, was named the Spring Thaw Tournament Most Outstanding Player, and was selected to the 2009 NCAA Division I All-Independent Team.
Fellow senior Danye Guinn ended her career as UND's 21st-highest scorer. She was also one of two players (Jamie Pudenz) to tally 100 assists in each her freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior seasons and was one of just six players (Kristi Boese, Tiffany Pudenz, Jamie Pudenz, Durene Heiser, and Carissa Jahner) to record over 1,000 points, 400 assists, and 400 rebounds at UND.
Despite traveling nearly 25,000 miles in their first season as a DI program, the team finished No. 2 on the 2008-09 NCAA Division I Academic Top 25 Team Honor Roll with an overall grade point average of 3.580.
In the second year of transition, the Fighting Sioux finished 17-14 (11-1 GWC) en route to the inaugural GWC regular season title and finished runner-up at the Great West Conference Tournament. Roebuck was named the GWC Coach of the Year, senior forward Kayla Bagaason was selected as the GWC Player of the Year, and three players - junior forward Mallory Youngblut, senior forward Whitney Ledger, and senior guard Jossy Bergan - were named all-conference. In addition, Seay, now a senior, was honored with the first annual GWC Sixth Woman Award and Youngblut was named to the all-tournament team.
Bagaason, UND's 2010 Grace Rhonemus Female Athlete of the Year, ended her career at North Dakota as the 28th member of UND's elite 1,000 point club and with a total of 1,107 points, she graduated as the 21st-highest scorer in UND history.
In year three of the transition, the Sioux finished 15-16 overall and posted an 8-4 conference mark. To highlight the season and Roebuck's career, UND defeated Houston Baptist 104-54 on its home court to tally the 600th victory for the legendary coach. To cap the season, UND once again finished runner-up at the GWC Tournament and Youngblut, now a senior co-captain, was named to the GWC All-Tournament team for the second straight year.
The 2011 UND Female Scholar-Athlete of the year, Youngblut surpassed former teammates Bagaason and Guinn to graduate as UND's 15th all-time leading scorer and the 29th member of the 1,000 point club. She received both GWC Preseason All-Conference and regular season all-conference first team honors and was a two-time GWC Player of the Week.
In the final year of transition, Roebuck and his young squad will play host to 12 different opponents (seven non-conference, five Great West) and for the first time in program history will welcome Creighton, Duquesne, and Northern Iowa to the BESC. In addition, future Big Sky Conference opponent Montana State and Bemidji State will travel to Grand Forks for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
The Fighting Sioux (along with Southern Utah) will officially join the Big Sky starting the 2012-13 season. The Big Sky currently consists of Portland State, Northern Colorado, Montana, Montana State, Idaho State, Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona, Weber State, and Sacramento State.
Roebuck resides in Grand Forks with his wife, Karolyn. They have a daughter, Cierra, and two grandchildren.
ROEBUCK'S ALL-TIME COACHING RECORD
^ indicates NCC Coach of the Year
# indicates GWC Coach of the Year
* indicates NCAA Division II national champions
~ indicates first year of NCAA Division I transition
NCAA Division II tournament appearances
1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008
- Go Sioux -