Northern Illinois has extended the contract of women’s basketball head coach Kathi Bennett through the 2017 season, NIU Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher announced Wednesday.
“Kathi Bennett has what it takes to rebuild and lead our women’s basketball team to a MAC Championship,” Compher said. “This contract extension is a reflection of our confidence in her and the positive momentum she has already established with the program. We are very excited that Kathi wants to be a Huskie for a long time.”
The extension for Bennett comes after leading NIU to the MAC quarterfinals for the first time since 2007.
Not only was it the program’s first trip to Cleveland since 2009, it was the first win in the MAC Tournament since 2007. Bennett also guided the Huskies to their first wins over Kent State and Akron since 2006 and brought in and developed the 2011-12 MAC Freshman of the Year.
“I love NIU, I love the community, I love DeKalb,” Bennett said. “We just started building on our dream and there’s no where else I want to be than here. I love working with Jeff, and the community of coaches and athletes feels like family.”
Showing the principles of Bennett’s famed “pack” defense, the 2011-12 Huskies ranked in the top four in the league in scoring defense, opponent field goal percentage, opponent three-point percentage and defensive rebounding. NIU also ranked 57th in the country in free throw percentage.
Bennett, who owns a 323-211 (.605) career record, was hired May 18, 2010, and will begin her third season with the Huskies in November. She has rebuilt three programs over her career and has 15 winning seasons in 21 years as a head coach, including 10 postseason appearances and one national championship with Division III Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
In her first season in 2010-11, Bennett went 13-17 (7-9 MAC) to improve the win total by 30 percent overall, 75 percent in conference, from the 2009-10 team that she inherited. In her second season, she pushed the 2011-12 Huskies to one win better (14-17, 6-10 MAC) than her first year and made a splash in the MAC Tournament with a youthful roster full of nine underclassmen.
With 10 returning players and more than 60 percent of their points and rebounds back, Bennett and the Huskies will kick off the 2012-13 campaign with the 2012 Preseason Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). NIU has only participated in the annual event one other time (1994) and will face the Iowa Hawkeyes in the season opener at noon Friday, Nov. 9, in Iowa City.