Kelly Packard shoehorned as much activity and as many memories as she possibly could into her four years at Anderson University.
Known by the surname of Spaulding upon arriving at AU by way of rural Tri-Valley High School near Dresden, Ohio, in the fall of 1986, Packard exited in 1990 as the women’s basketball program’s career leader in points (1,275) and rebounds (723).
While at AU, she also ran track, was sports editor of the yearbook and served on the newspaper staff. Her crowning moment, literally, came in 1989, when she was named her school’s Homecoming queen.
Now 39, Packard has never shied away from a challenge or a heavy workload.
Earlier this week, she inherited both by being named the new women’s basketball coach at Ball State University, succeeding Tracy Roller, who resigned due to personal reasons in April after seven seasons at the helm.
It’s been a week since Packard received her career-altering telephone call from BSU athletics director Tom Collins. The memory, however, is fresh.
“You’re always hesitant to take that call, but obviously you take that call,” Packard remembered. “I was thrilled, but I was calm.”
Most recently a resident of Fort Collins, Colo., with her husband, Rich, an electrical engineer and a 1988 AU graduate, and sons Derek, 13, and Evan, 9, Packard embraces a return to the Midwest.
The Ball State program, she feels, has all the components necessary to continue blossoming into something special.
“Certainly, when you evaluate the process you dig into all of that,” said Packard, who’ll inherit a program returning five of its top six scorers from the 2007-08 season.
“It was a program that had some very, very good pieces already in it. Ball State has strong fan support, and it’s located where you can recruit Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky very well.”
The past two years, Packard had worked for Triple Crown Sports, which attempted to bring a WNBA expansion franchise to Colorado. Prior to that, she coached the Colorado Chill of the National Women’s Basketball League, which on Packard’s watch won the league title in 2005 and 2006.
Two stints as a Colorado State University women’s assistant coach in the 1990s enabled Packard to learn from two of the best in the business in current Arkansas coach Tom Collen and Greg Williams, now at Rice.
The 60-year-old Williams, in particular, seems to have had the greatest influence on Packard.
“I worked for him first, and he had an amazing ability to evaluate talent and assess character,” Packard said. “Greg is still coaching and has weathered a lot of situations.”
Packard weathered one Monday when she came face-to-face with the players she’ll be coaching at Ball State in 2008-09.
Talk about pregame jitters.
“I think they were nervous and cautious, and they had every right to be,” she said. “But it was a good time. The start of something I believe will be special.”
—By Mike Beas is a reporter for the Herald Bulletin in Anderson. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.