High hopes for new coach amid lawsuit

After a string of sub-par seasons, the Linfield women’s basketball team looks to its new head coach
Robin Potera-Haskins to turn the program around and continue the school’s tradition of academic and
athletic excellence.
This summer, a hiring committee comprising athletic director Scott Carnahan, men’s basketball coach
Larry Doty, track and field coach Gary Kilgore, senior woman administrator Dawn Graff-Haight and several
members of the women’s basketball team screened many candidates before deciding on its choice for the
new head coach. Among the finalists was former interim coach Casey Kushiyama who helmed the team for
the past two seasons.
“Coach Kusiyama did a fine job as interim coach,” Carnahan said. “He was certainly among our top three
choices.”
Haskins brings a veritable treasure trove of experience to the court with more than 20 years of work as a
coach. She got her first head coaching job at Wilmer-Hutchins High School, where she coached for seven
years. Despite being the youngest head coach in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area at the time, Haskins won three
district championships and led her squad to a consistent top-10 ranking in the state.
“What is unique about her [Haskins] is her ability to turn around sagging programs,” Carnahan said. “In
every program she’s entered, they’ve seen a drastic change in win-loss percentage and recruiting.”
From there, Haskins coached at Austin College for five years,
winning three conference championships and competing in three national title games; Texas-Westlyan
University; Division I Montana State University; Louisiana College; and, most recently, Palm Beach Atlantic
University. At Montana State, she won two conference championships and upset Baylor University one
season prior to its national championship.
In addition to her achievements on the court, Haskins kept her players first and foremost focused on its
academic lives
“At Austin College and Texas-Westylan, we were among the top 25 schools in the nation for student
athletes, as our players had a 3.3 cumulative GPA.” Haskins said.
That devotion to academics and athletics is what made Linfield so attractive to Haskins, as well as its
location in the Pacific Northwest. The Northwest is close to her husband’s heart, she said, and Haskins
agreed to apply for any jobs that opened in the area.
“I’ve been on a personal journey to find my niche as a coach,” Haskins said. It’s also changed and been
affected as women’s sports has changed. It’s not just a job; it’s who and what you believe in — morals,
ethics. I’m thrilled to be here.”
While at Austin College, Haskins had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by former Southwest
Conference commissioner Fred Jacoby that profoundly
affected her opinions on coaching and life she said. In his presentation, Jacoby stressed the importance of
never backing down from what’s right and always getting up again. Haskins has adopted those principles,
and they form the cornerstones of her ethical and coaching philosophies, she said.
“If I can teach my players anything,” Haskins said. “It’s to never stop getting up. You can always get back
up.”
While Haskins and Linfield are excited for her to take the helm as head coach, the hire was marred only
a day after it’s finalization when the NCAA announced that a lawsuit filed by the new coach against Montana
State University was settled primarily in favor of the school. The suit surrounded several ethical and political
violations Haskins believed the school had made, including a large discrepancy between the funding and
treatment of the men’s and women’s basketball programs. During the trials, MSU accused her of, among
other things, being verbally abusive to players and fabricating scholarships. However, no charges were
brought, and the NCAA has no plans to pursue an investigation.
The accusations are baseless, Carnahan said.
“She was hired at two schools immediately after leaving Montana State before coming here,” Carnahan
said. “We addressed it in the hiring process, but clearly we aren’t the only school to believe she’s a good fit
despite the controversy.”
Haskins plans to pursue an appeal, a lengthy and expensive process, Carnahan said. Only a person sure
he or she was right would undergo the process, he said.
In the new coach’s opinion, it’s in the past and should be left there. But, according to Haskins, in her
heart of hearts, she is sure she is in the right.
“In my career, I’ve always held myself to the highest standards of integrity,” Haskins said. “To the best
of my ability, I’ve always tried to do the right thing. Sometimes when you do that, not everyone appreciates
that. It takes courage sometimes to stand up for that, and it doesn’t always give good results for you
personally. But if you stand up for it, the effects will be felt in the future.”
Despite mostly ruling in favor of MSU, the NCAA did acknowledge that there is a wide discrepancy
between the treatment and funding of the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Thus far at Linfield, Haskins’ interactions with the players have been wholly positive, she said. She has
had the opportunity to talk with players about their goals, academic lives and aspirations for after Linfield.
Haskins said she is excited to have the opportunity to mentor the players and also noted that her favorite
moments in coaching have come off of the court.
“At Austin College, I got to see a group I recruited as freshmen grow up and succeed outside college,”
Haskins said. “One woman is now a doctor. One works for a stock broking firm, one is a vet. To see them
succeed was the most gratifying thing I’ve ever experienced as a coach. That’s what it’s all about.”
To find out more about Haskins and her career and more about the lawsuit visit the linfield athletics webiste
at www.linfield.edu/sports/index.php.

Chris Forrer/Freelancer
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

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