Cascade alum Kennedy takes over Portland St. women’s basketball program

  • By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
  • Monday, April 27, 2015 10:32pm
  • SportsSports

At an introductory press conference earlier this month, new Portland State University women’s basketball coach Lynn Kennedy was clear about his vision — indeed, his expectation — for the program.

“We’re going to be Big Sky (Conference) champions,” he announced. “That’s the goal from Day 1.”

Strong stuff, considering the Vikings have slipped badly in recent years. After reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2009-10 and the Women’s NIT in 2010-11, Portland State’s win totals dropped to 15, 12, eight and four over the past four seasons. The downturn led to the firing of eight-year coach Sherri Murrell in February.

But the 42-year-old Kennedy, a 1990 graduate of Everett’s Cascade High School, is confident the strategies and philosophies developed in his 20-year coaching career, including the past 10 seasons at Southern Oregon University, will ultimately lift the Vikings to success.

“I firmly believe that we will (win the league title),” Kennedy said in a phone interview last week. “It’s not going to happen overnight. There will be a lot of hard work and a lot of recruiting. But if you have a mentality of belief, then that process will come.

“And with that hard work, and along with the (assistant) coaches we’re going to hire and the recruits we’re going to bring in, we’ll get the job done,” he said.

During the selection process, Kennedy “really met all the criteria that we were looking for,” said PSU athletic director Mark Rountree. “He had significant experience as a head coach building successful programs … and he also plays an up-tempo style of basketball that players like to play and fans like to watch.”

Women’s basketball “is a flagship program for us,” Rountree added, “and having that program be successful and being consistently one of the top programs in the Big Sky Conference is something that I’m looking forward to.”

Kennedy grew up in Elmira, Ore., but moved with his family to Everett for his freshman year of high school. He won two varsity letters in basketball for the Bruins, and went on to play two years at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Ore., where his father Don had been a head coach, and then two more years at Northwest University in Kirkland.

“Because of my dad (coaching), I grew up going on bus trips and being around basketball,” he said. “And when I played in college I knew that I loved the game.”

He became a volunteer coach with the Northwest University women’s team after graduation, left for one year to coach boys at Kirkland’s Lake Washington High School, and then at age 26 he returned the next season as head coach of the NU women’s team.

Kennedy ended up coaching women’s basketball because “it was the opportunity I was given at that time. And it’s been great,” he said. “There are different things between the men’s and women’s games, but basketball is basketball. And for me the approach is the same. If you can teach fundamentals, discipline, structure and leadership, then it doesn’t matter if it’s men’s or women’s basketball.”

After one season as Northwest University’s head coach, he went on to be an assistant coach at Eastern Washington and Idaho State (he was an interim head coach of the latter) before taking the head coaching job at New Mexico Highlands in 2002 and then the Southern Oregon job in 2005. At both New Mexico Highlands and Southern Oregon, he took over downtrodden programs and built them into winners.

Though Kennedy and his family were comfortable at Southern Oregon, the opportunity to coach at Portland State “was something we couldn’t turn down,” he said. Not only was it “an opportunity to coach Division I, I love the challenge of taking a team that’s been at the bottom and changing them into champions.”

At Portland State, recruiting will be a foremost task, “and we’re going to be all over the place,” he said. “We’ll turn over every rock in the recruiting field to look for those players.”

The pathway to success, he explained, is finding players who “buy into your philosophy and your program. And coming into this position at Portland State, it has to be the same for us. We can’t change our approach and we can’t change who we’re going to be on the court, in the classroom and in the community.”

Adding to the upbeat feelings around the program, the Vikings will open a new 4,500-seat arena in December of 2018, with construction scheduled to start sometime this winter.

Put it all together, and Kennedy is understandably optimistic about the future.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” Kennedy said, “but I get excited every day thinking about it.”

For himself and his family, he went on, “we love being in the Northwest and we love Portland. It was almost like a perfect scenario for us to go to Portland State.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Monroe’s Mason Davis (1) celebrates with Trent Bublitz (11) after Bublitz’s touchdown reception against Edmonds-Woodway on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, at Edmonds School District Stadium in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Reader poll: Make your picks for Week 6 prep football games

Do you think you can beat the experts in our weekly high… Continue reading

Mountlake Terrace’s Zaveon Jones is pulled to the ground by a diving Nicholas Mouser of Monroe on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, at Monroe High School in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Swarming Monroe defense keys win over Terrace in Wesco 3A South showdown

The Bearcats slow down the Hawks’ potent ground game, and quarterback Blake Springer tosses three TDs in a 35-10 victory.

Arlington players lift the Stilly Cup in the air after beating Stanwood on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023 in Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Arlington reclaims Stilly Cup after short hiatus, routs Stanwood 42-7

Leyton Martin registers 277 yards, 4 TDs as Eagles notch fifth straight game with at least six TDs.

Who’s that frog? A local high school tennis player, that’s who

Arlington tennis player Robbie Balderas worked as AquaSox mascot Webbly this season, and the busy junior also runs a landscaping business.

Marysville Pilchuck’s Christian Van Natta lifts the ball in the air to celebrate a turnover during the game against Marysville Getchell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 29

Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 29: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Fall prep sports roundup.
Prep results for Saturday, Sept. 30

Prep results for Saturday, Sept. 30: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Marysville Pilchuck’s Dominik Kendrick (9) runs with the ball during a football game between Marysville Pilchuck and Stanwood at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Washington on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023. Marysville Pilchuck takes the win, 36-7. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Marysville Pilchuck proud of 4-0 start, but has loftier goals

The Tomahawks aren’t listening to the outside noise, including a No. 1 WIAA RPI ranking, as a tough stretch lies ahead.

Houston Astros relief pitcher Hector Neris (50) gestures to Seattle Mariners' Julio Rodríguez (44) after striking Rodríguez out to end the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
MLB investigating Astros pitcher’s alleged use of homophobic slur

The incident occurred during a heated exchange between Houston’s Hector Neris and M’s star Julio Rodriguez on Wednesday night.

Prep roundup for Friday, Sept. 29

Prep roundup for Friday, Sept. 29: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Most Read