Voted on by the league’s coaches, the honor is the third, and second straight, for Gooden during his 11-year tenure as a Huskie.
“I am very honored to be recognized like this by my peers,” Gooden said.
“I am very thankful for the opportunity to coach such a great group of young ladies. The growth they had over this season was special and I’m very privileged to be their coach. This award is a reflection of the work those young ladies put in as well as our assistants Lynnette (Moster) and Joe (Julkowski) and our wonderful supports staff in the NIU Athletic Department.”
Gooden faced plenty of challenges entering the 2012 season.
The team lost the two-time MAC Player of the Year, the 2011 MAC Setter of the Year and a three-time All-MAC outside hitter. Those players fueled the Huskies to back-to-back MAC Tournament championship appearances, the 2011 MAC regular season title (NIU’s first MAC since 2001) and last season’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001. It was NIU’s first at-large NCAA bid since 1998 and second at-large bid ever.
Undeterred, Gooden took a team with a freshman setter and relatively inexperienced outside hitters to a 2012 second place finish in the MAC West Division and back to the MAC Tournament championship match for the third straight year with a 21-14 record, 10-6 in MAC play.
Picked to finish fourth in the MAC West by the league’s coaches in the MAC Preseason Poll, Gooden overcame the odds and coached the Huskies to unprecedented success as NIU has never made three straight MAC Tournament title match appearances, and has only made one other title appearance as a No. 4 seed (Gooden’s 2010 team).
The Evanston, Ill., native has now won at least one match in eight of his 11 MAC Tournament appearances, has three 20-plus-win seasons in a row (five overall), three consecutive seasons with 10 or more MAC wins (four overall), and five straight years with multiple All-MAC selections.
Along the way, Gooden earned his 200th career win this season on Oct. 27 against Central Michigan. The program’s coach with the second most all-time wins (205-150) is just the second in Huskie history to reach the 200-win plateau.
Gooden is in the process of leaving an indelible mark on the program as the top three place holders in kills, kills per set, attack attempts and points all played under Gooden, as well as the top two holders in digs and digs per set.
Additionally, Gooden has coached 31 All-MAC, 16 Academic All-MAC, six MAC All-Freshman and five MAC Player of the Year selections, along with the only seven All-American selections in program history. Six players have also reached the 1,000-kill and 1,000-dig plateaus under Gooden.
The last repeat Coach of the Year winner in the MAC was Ohio’s Geoff Carlston, who won it four straight times from 2003-06, as Gooden is now the fourth in conference history to repeat.
Gooden is the first NIU coach to garner the MAC honor in back-to-back seasons and the second to earn a conference Coach of the Year award two straight times (Pete Waite won Mid-Continent Conference Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1993). Gooden is now tied with Waite for the most conference Coach of the Year awards at NIU as he also won the honor in 2006 (Co-Coach of the Year with Carlston) and 2010. Overall, NIU has seven conference Coach of the Year awards.