Harrigan steps down as HU coach, takes new role

PHOTOS COURTESY OF HEIDELBERG UNIVERSITY/DOUG SAMPSON Heidelberg women’s basketball coach Morgan Harrigan looks on during a game at Seiberling Gymnasium this season.

It wasn’t how Morgan Harrigan wanted to share this news.

Due to students at Heidelberg — and practically everywhere — being off campus due to the coronavirus pandemic — the women’s basketball coach had to use teleconferencing to let her players know she was stepping down to take another position at the school.

“Unfortunately, it had to be by a Zoom teleconference call,” Harrigan said Friday. “Not the way I wanted to have to talk to the team about it. Also being the bearer of this kind of news was certainly hard timing.”

After seven years leading the program, the former Student Princes’ player is leaving the sidelines to become Director of Academic Support in Heidelberg’s Owen Center for Teaching & Learning.

In January, it was announced that Harrigan’s assistant, Shawn Gunnell — also HU’s men’s golf coach — accepted a new position and would become Coordinator of Multicultural Student Affairs on campus.

That means there will be a new staff at HU next season.

“I think Morgan and Shaun are tremendous leaders and I am happy that they now have an opportunity to make a larger impact on the entire Heidelberg community,” said Heidelberg Athletic Director Matt Palm, in a release from the school. “I will miss their day-to-day contributions in our office, but it’s definitely a win for Heidelberg.”

Harrigan said her decision to leave the team wasn’t about wanting to get away from the sport. Harrigan — who hit seven 3s in a ‘Berg game at Bluffton in 2007 — said she saw a chance to impact athletes in a different way.

“I have seen a need on our campus for the new role that I’m going to be in,” she said, “and I think it gives me the opportunity to impact all of Heidelberg University in a way that allows me to reach a lot more of the campus community.

“Being able to help on a higher level I think is ultimately what has made me want to do this transition,” she said.

Even so, Harrigan said it was tough relaying that to the team.

“I think they all understand I’m not leaving them, I’m just transitioning to be their academic and success coach, more than their on-the-court coach,” Harrigan said. “I can see if they were upset if I was leaving to go coach somewhere else, or go to another University, but I’m just here to strengthen their experience, and putting it that way, they ultimately understand, and are very supportive.”

Harrigan played at Heidelberg, graduating in 2009. Later, she returned an assistant for Marcie Alberts before being promoted to head coach before the 2013-14 season.

After going 6-19 the previous year, Heidelberg drastically improved in Harrigan’s first season, going 12-14. The following year, Heidelberg went 11-16, but an 8-10 Ohio Athletic Conference mark secured it a home game with Mount Union in the first round of the league tournament.

In the contest, HU overcame a 21-point first half deficit to beat the Raiders, 84-80. Theresa Jackson scored 29 points in the comeback.

Heidelberg was eliminated by Baldwin Wallace in the next round.

Harrigan’s tenure ended with an overall record of 63-118. She has the second-most coaching wins in program history. Karen McConnell, Harrigan’s former coach, is the program’s all-time leader.

“Seiberling Gymnasium has been my home for half of my life,” Harrigan said. “It’s definitely a tough decision for me, but the toughest part was honestly communicating with my team…it’s the relationships that matter even more than anything that happened on the court.”

Harrigan didn’t rule out returning to coaching at some point “down the road.”

“The game has been my love for 28 years of my life. So, yes, I’m absolutely gonna miss everything about coaching,” she said. “This decision was so hard because I love it so much. I didn’t want to get out of coaching by any means, I wasn’t searching for it. It was something that presented itself through the other work I do on campus.”

In the press release announcing the move, it said the search for the program’s “new leadership group” would begin immediately.

“I’m very confident we’re going to hire a great, dynamic leader for the program, and I think we’re in a great situation to move forward at this point,” Harrigan said.