Insell In Charge

Matt Insell decided a long time ago that coaching women's basketball would be his life's work. Then again, not all that long ago.

Follow SpiritJeff on Twitter

Insell, the new head coach at Ole Miss, is 30 years old. The Kentucky assistant coach for the past five years has his own take on that.

"I consider age a number," said Insell, around the game of basketball basically his entire life. "Age doesn't account for your experience and your expertise and your traits. People may look at my age and say he's young."

But there is more, and you don't have to dig very much to find it. Insell has helped guide Kentucky to four 20-win seasons and four trips to the NCAA Tournament in his time in Lexington. The Lady Wildcats have ended the last three seasons ranked in the top 25.

On Saturday, Kentucky (30-5) defeated Delaware in the Sweet Sixteen and now faces Connecticut (32-4) on Monday at 6:30 p.m. (Central) with the victor advancing to the Final Four in New Orleans.

Insell, who is responsible for the guards while also having recruiting and player development duties, serves as the top assistant coach to head coach Matthew Mitchell and helped UK ink three top-10 recruiting classes and seven McDonald's All-Americans.

"To get to where I am today, I've been very fortunate to work with great people and to have great people in my life that have mentored me to help me achieve this ultimate goal," said Insell, a graduate of Shelbyville (Tenn.) Central High School where his father, Rick, was a highly successful girls basketball coach with 10 Tennessee high school state titles before becoming head coach at Middle Tennessee State. "Being able to share this with them, after I accepted this job, was a very special time for me."

Matt Insell was a highly successful coach in AAU before accepting the role as an assistant at Kentucky. Insell had 41 of his former AAU players move on to Division I basketball, including former Wildcats Victoria Dunlap and Crystal Riley. He also coached the Shelbyville Sports Shop 15-Under team to the AAU National Championship title in 2004.

Insell said the past five years at Kentucky have been valuable toward him becoming the head coach with the Lady Rebels.

"These five years have prepared me for the challenges ahead at Ole Miss. It was a similar situation where the program was when we took over at Kentucky. The great thing about Ole Miss is they have a lot of history," Insell said. "It's been done there before, and it's going to be done there again under my watch."

There is indeed a tradition of winning in women's basketball at Ole Miss. There was a NCAA Tournament Elite Eight finish as recently as 2007.

But lately there have been struggles. The recent past, along with the hiring and release of Adrian Wiggins followed by the retaining of assistant Brett Frank to lead the team through a difficult last season, has been a low point. NCAA sanctions are still not out of the question. Insell said there are things he and his staff have to work through but not dwell on.

"That's something we can't worry about. It's out of our control," he said. "We can only control what we can control. Ross (Bjork) and the entire athletic department talked to me about what's going on with that. Obviously it is what it is, and it's nothing we can control or worry about. We'll deal with that with a smile on our face, and we'll move forward with our program and start building this thing back to where it should be, and that's at the top of the league."

Matt Insell
File Photo

Prior to Kentucky, Insell was the Director of Basketball Operations at Louisiana Tech under Coach Chris Long. Before that, he coached the Tennessee Flight, a Nike Elite Travel Program, for three years.

Other Insell points:

On recruiting – "Recruiting is a relationship-based system and scenario. If you don't have the relationships, you're not going to get in on these players. I have to use my relationships that I built in the summer basketball days and being in the trenches with those guys and getting to know them. I have more than just a pick up the phone and talk to them about a player relationship. I have a friendship that runs deep with those guys, because they know I was where they are at one time. And I would not be where I am right now if it were not for summer basketball. Those relationships will help me get in some doors that a lot of people are not in. Once we get in those doors, we have to sell the people of The University of Mississippi. That's everybody involved in the selling points about this great university. And once you get them on campus, it's a beautiful campus, and you bring them in on a football weekend when Coach (Hugh) Freeze packs them in that stadium and has (the players) flying around the field. That brings excitement to the university as a whole. We have to build on that success, the success of football that Coach Freeze has brought and the success of men's basketball with Coach (Andy) Kennedy. We have to use their success to help build our program."

On what fans can expect when they watch his teams play – "It's going be what they see if they've watched Kentucky play. It's going to be chaotic pace. Everything's going to be based on tempo and toughness. We want to be the fastest team in the country offensively and defensively. We want to be the toughest team in the country offensively and defensively. We want to be a great offensive rebounding basketball team. If you want to play somewhere that you can turn loose and play your game and have a chance to excel in a high-paced system, and if you decide you want to be able to play professional basketball overseas or in the WNBA, that's why (Kentucky) is having players drafted, and that's exactly what we're going to have at The University of Mississippi."

On recruiting areas – "We'll start (in Mississippi) and build out. There are some great players and great high school coaching in the state of Mississippi. We've got to get in those doors and we've got to let them know we are "the" school the state of Mississippi. That's the first order of business. There are some great players in this state, and we're going to be a great option for them, the option they want to come to where they can not only excel on the basketball court but also a place where their families can see them play. I cannot wait to get there and start building those relationships in the state."

On choosing the career as a women's basketball coach and also facing battles with other outstanding coaches in the SEC and the country - "Growing up I was always around it. I built a network starting at a young age from people all around the country to get to know this game. I've known for a long time coaching women's basketball is my calling. I enjoy it. I enjoy the game. I enjoy the competitiveness. I enjoy watching players develop over a four-year span. I cherish all of that about the women's game. It's going to be fun playing and coaching against (other SEC and national coaches), because it will help me to be my best. To beat them, I will have to be at my best."

Insell will join the Lady Rebel program as soon as the Lady Wildcats play their last game this season.

OM Spirit Top Stories