Hurt is just the right woman for the job

Mar. 11—East Central University has officially removed the "Interim" tag from women's basketball coach Heather Hurt.

The school announced earlier this week that Hurt had been named the school's fifth ECU women's basketball coach.

The program is in good hands for sure.

Hurt was thrown into the fire in mid-December, seven games into the 2022-23 season. The Tigers lost four of their next five games but slowly began to turn things around. Under her guidance, ECU won four Great American Conference games out of six during a critical juncture late in the season and earned a spot in the GAC Women's Basketball Tournament.

And it should be pointed out that the Tigers were battling the injury bug during most of the transition period with Hurt at the helm.

The ECU women gave No. 2 seed Harding everything it wanted before finally falling to the 24-6 Lady Bison 63-54 in the GAC quarterfinals.

This sports writer agrees with ECU athletic director and former women's head basketball coach Matt Cole when he says Hurt is destined to do great things.

"I am pleased to name Heather as the head coach of our women's basketball program," Cole said in a press release. "She is an established and valued member of our athletic department coaching staff after serving nine seasons as the assistant coach, and I look forward to the great things ahead with her at the helm of the program."

Hurt's hard work didn't go unnoticed by ECU President Wendell Godwin.

"Taking over at mid-season is never an ideal transition, but she has made the most of the opportunity," he said. "Finishing seventh in the conference and making the Great American Tournament was more than was expected in late December, due to injuries and our strength of schedule. In addition to the on-court performance, she leads an amazing group of student-athletes who have high academic standing."

The Tigers have excelled in the classroom, as three student-athletes received GAC honors for their performance during the 2022-23 season. The three honorees included an All-GAC Second Team Member, GAC Distinguished Scholar-Athlete and two GAC Elite Scholar Athletes. The women's basketball team has consistently held one of the highest cumulative GPAs among ECU athletic teams.

Hurt feels right at home in Ada. She's now part of a local basketball power couple, marrying Vanoss High School girls and boys basketball head coach Jonathon Hurt. They have one son, 1-year-old Jones.

"ECU is home to me after being here nine years," Hurt said. "I love being here at East Central University and living in the Ada community. I am honored I have the opportunity to continue leading amazing young women and building our women's basketball program. It has been a dream of mine to lead a DII program and I'm very excited it is here at ECU. This would not be possible without the incredible support system I have," Hurt added. "I am thankful to have my husband, Jon, and my family in my corner supporting me along the way. There are many people who had a hand in helping me get here today."

Hurt became a member of the Tiger coaching staff in 2014. Hurt also has one of the top NCAA Division II assistant coaches by her side in Jeff McGaha, who also joined the women's basketball season before the 2014-15 season. It gives ECU its own dynamic duo.

Hurt said she was proud of what her team accomplished this season.

"Im thankful they played really hard for me, were very coachable and fought through adversity. We all learned a lot this season and I'm thankful I was able to lead them," she said. "There are bright futures for all of these young women. And I couldn't have done it without Jeff McGaha and (graduate assistant) Hannah Ladd."