NASHVILLE – Lipscomb University Athletic Director Philip Hutcheson announced Monday morning that Lauren Sumski has been named the fifth head coach in the history of the women’s basketball program. She becomes the first-ever female to lead the program in the Division I era.
Sumski comes to Lipscomb after serving as head coach for the Rhodes College women’s basketball team where she compiled a 35-21 overall record in her first head coaching tenure.
At the age of 27 she will be one of the youngest head coaches in the country across all Divisions.
“Before I met Lauren, I had several people tell me that she was on her way to great things in the coaching profession and that we had to make sure to meet with her ASAP,” Hutcheson said. “Those people commented on her energy, her intelligence, her ability to connect with others and her high emotional and basketball IQ, and those involved in the process all found that to be the 100 percent truth.
"From the very first phone call to our final meeting before the offer, her preparation, poise and personality all pointed to her being a great fit here.”
A welcome celebration and introductory press conference are scheduled for Tuesday, April 23, at 2 p.m. in the Hall of Fame Room inside Allen Arena. Fans are welcome to attend as Sumski is introduced to the Lipscomb community.
“I am humbled, honored, and grateful,” Sumski said. “I am excited for the opportunity. I think that Lipscomb has a ton of things in place for us to field a successful women’s basketball program. More than the things, it’s just such a high-quality type of person there. We’re excited to get to work and start building back up.”
In her first season at the helm Sumski led the Lynx to an 18-9 overall record, which was a 13-game turnaround from the previous season's 5-21 mark. It was the third largest improvement among all Division III teams in 2016-17.
This past season, the Memphis native led Rhodes to 17-12 record and a Southern Athletic Association Tournament Championship. The Lynx knocked off the SAA regular season champion Millsaps (71-68) in the semifinals and then took down the defending tournament champion Oglethorpe (56-41) in the title game to earn Rhodes its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015.
“I was attracted to the fit, culture, and being in a place where we believe we can do things the right way and still have an impact on our student-athletes,” Sumski said. “I feel that is what we were called to do, being able to put those things all together and compete at the highest level.”
“The Lipscomb community is enthusiastic with the hire of Coach Sumski because of her understanding of our quest for excellence on the court and our passion for character development as we prepare student athletes for their careers,” said Lipscomb University president L. Randolph Lowry. “This was the original vision of the university, long before D1 athletics and continues today."
Sumski graduated from Rhodes in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in biology with a concentration in pre-medicine, before earning her master’s degree in education with a sports administration emphasis in 2016.
Rated the 28th-best high school prospect in the nation by ESPNU Hoopsgurlz 100, Sumski committed to the University of Tennessee and played one season under the legendary Pat Summit in 2010-11.
She played in 19 games for the SEC champions and was named to the All-SEC Academic team.
After dealing with injuries as a freshman in Knoxville, Sumski transferred back home and played her final three seasons with Rhodes where she rewrote the record books. In her final two years with the Lynx she helped lead the team to a combined 50-8 record, setting the school’s record with 25 wins in each season.
Her teams won the SAA regular season and tournament titles in both seasons and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each where they picked up two first-round wins.
During her career, Sumski was a two-time WBCA All-American, a National Player of the year finalist, a SAA Player of the Year, a two-time SAA Tournament MVP, and an academic honor roll member.
Sumski led the nation in points per minute and finished second in the nation in scoring after averaging 25.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as a senior, where she led the Lynx to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and their first-ever DIII national ranking. In her junior campaign, she averaged 20.2 points and 8.6 rebounds.
She finished her career with 1,373 points and set the school record for points in a season (692), free throws made (180) and single season per game average.
Passing on numerous professional basketball playing opportunities, Sumski decided to pursue a career in coaching. After graduating from Rhodes, Sumski was awarded her first coaching opportunity as an assistant coach on Mark Campbell’s staff at Union University in August of 2014.
The Lady Bulldogs compiled a 73-20 record during her three seasons on the staff and she helped produce 15 GSC Academic Honor Roll Players, three GSC All-Academic Players, four All-GSC players, one GSC Player of the Year, one South Regional Player of the Year, three All-Americans, one Player of the Year Finalist and two Top 10 Final Rankings.
“I originally was going to med school,” Sumski said. “All paths, all roads were leading me to medical school, but career roads opened up opportunities to get into involved with coaching and training and I fell in love with it. Come decision time, I felt called to coach. I felt like that was what I was supposed to be doing.
“I was fortunate enough to get started with Lipscomb alum Mark Campbell at Union. I just could not have had a better pathway to doing things the right way and being in a system where you are winning and developing young women.”
Sumski was also a highly-decorated high school player at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis. She was named a national high school All-American, earned two state titles and was a two-time Tennessee Miss Basketball. She averaged 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 5.8 steals per game for her career and posted 90 double-doubles, seven triple-doubles and one quadruple-double.
She was featured in the 2008 Sports Illustrated ‘Where Will They Be?’ photo series and was named ESPN RISE Underclassman and EA Sports Player of the Year twice.
“After spending some time talking about some of her personal experiences growing up, playing and coaching, I feel confident she has the kind of faith that’s going to allow her to model for our young women how to be intensely competitive while still maintaining the character and Christian values upon which our school is built,” Hutcheson said.
Sumski is married to her husband Chris, who served as an assistant coach on her staff at Rhodes.
“What you can expect from me is someone who’s going to be passionate about my student-athletes, passionate about the game, passionate about us doing things the right way and, passionate about us doing things with the right people,” Sumski said.
“We’re going to be fundamentally sound, we’re going to be tough, we’re going to have a higher emphasis on defense going forward, but we’re going to try to put young women in some situations to be successful offensively as well.”