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'I wasn't quite good enough': Jeff Walz shares the path that led him to coach college basketball

The winningest UofL Women's Basketball Coach in history got his start coaching 7th-grade girls basketball.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Sometimes opportunities don’t feel like opportunities. For Louisville Women’s Basketball Coach Jeff Walz, that was the case just a few decades ago.

“I had the opportunity to play a few years of college basketball at Northern Kentucky University, then decided after a few years of that I wasn’t quite good enough, so I like to say I retired,” he said.

When Walz stepped away from playing basketball, he also stepped away from his scholarship. He quickly realized he needed to come up with a way to stay in school. 

“I started coaching 7th grade girls basketball,” he said. “At the time, it was really just an opportunity to just coach, because I was trying to figure out a way to pay for college, and I really enjoyed it. I never dreamed that one day I’d be coaching college basketball.”

After a couple seasons coaching middle school girls, Walz began coaching a girls AAU team, even recruiting his sister to play, before heading to Western Kentucky University to begin work on his Master’s degree. 

There, he worked under Women’s coach Paul Sanderford. Sanderford would eventually take the job as head coach at Nebraska, and Walz would follow as an assistant coach.

After 4 years in Nebraska, Walz spend one year working as an assistant coach in Minnesota, then 5 years as an assistant coach in Maryland where his team won a national title in 2006. 

Walz took over as head coach in Louisville in 2007, and quickly began ushering in a new team culture and cultivated the biggest fan base in program history. 

“You build relationships with players, he said.” “Some of them have a style that they want to come play for, but it’s work."

Walz said he and the staff work hard to get members of the Louisville community to come to a game.

"If you get them to come to one game, they’ll come back. And that’s kind of how we built this program," he said. "One fan on top of another.”

Jeff Walz is the winningest coach in Louisville Women’s Basketball history. While the accomplishments and accolades are often listed as his, Walz is quick to redirect them to the student athletes. 

“We’ve had a lot of success and done a lot of great things on the basketball court, but they’ve done a lot of great things in the community, in the city," he said. "They’re always out giving back, and I think that’s why we have the fan support that we have.”

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