Katie Gearlds officially stepped into her role as the ninth head coach of Purdue Women’s Basketball Monday afternoon, returning to her alma mater and to Mackey Arena.
Gearlds was a Boilermaker from 2003-07 before moving on to the WNBA and a professional career before she turned coach.
She joined the coaching staff in March 2021 as an associate head coach with plans to be promoted to the head coach position prior to the 2022-23 season. But former head coach Sharon Versyp announced her retirement two weeks ago, which forced Gearlds to take the position prematurely.
Versyp was recently implicated but not formally indicted in an investigation into alleged player and staff abuse incidents within the program. No link has been established between those allegations and her retirement.
Gearlds attributed the early switchover to a sense of readiness between her and Versyp.
“(Versyp) was ready for the next phase of her life, and she knew that I was ready,” Gearlds said in a press conference on Monday. “We thought it would take a year, but lo and behold it took six months, although I’ve been learning from Versyp for the past 15 years.”
Gearld’s coaching career was something she said she “never imagined while playing at Purdue”. It was during her professional career in the WNBA that she finally realized that she had what it takes and she knew what the game was about. It took a conversation with fellow player Sue Bird that inspired Gearlds to look into coaching as a next step, and once a job at Marian University in Indianapolis opened, it gave her an opportunity.
While coaching at Marian, Gearlds said the most important thing she learned was how to “close games as a coach” and make sure everyone, from her athletes to her coaching staff, was able to understand the game.
Gearlds also said she’s glad to have the opportunity to provide support to her student athletes during very formative years.
“To be at such a critical stage in these young women’s lives… really trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do with their lives, that’s something that I know I was born to do.”
Over her time at Marian, Gearlds led the team to two NAIA Division II Championship Titles in 2016 and 2017 and was named NAIA National Coach of the Year three times.
As a Boilermaker, she helped advance the Boilermakers into the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament in 2007. She holds the program record for most points scored in a single game — 41 points against Wisconsin on Feb. 18, 2007 — and the most points scored in a single season — 707 as a senior.
Gearlds and the rest of the program say they are excited for the “Katie Gearlds era" to begin.
“I want to have a team that’s hard to beat,” Gearlds said. “There are a lot of girls across the country that want to be in those chairs, and wearing those six letters of Purdue across your chest means something.
“We’re going to go out there and make Purdue proud.”