UTEP women’s basketball coach happy to have landed his ‘dream job’

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UTEP women’s basketball coach happy to have landed his ‘dream job’

New UTEP women’s basketball coach Kevin Baker replaces the winningest coach in UTEP women’s basketball history in Keitha Adams.

New UTEP women’s basketball coach Kevin Baker replaces the winningest coach in UTEP women’s basketball history in Keitha Adams.

Photo courtesy of UTEP Athletics

New UTEP women’s basketball coach Kevin Baker replaces the winningest coach in UTEP women’s basketball history in Keitha Adams.

Photo courtesy of UTEP Athletics

Photo courtesy of UTEP Athletics

New UTEP women’s basketball coach Kevin Baker replaces the winningest coach in UTEP women’s basketball history in Keitha Adams.

Jeremy Carranco, Contributor

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For the first time in 16 seasons, the UTEP women’s basketball program will be led by a new head coach. On April 24, UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull announced the hiring of former UT Tyler and Angelo State head coach Kevin Baker.

Baker, born and raised in Texas, has also coached his entire career in the state, with UTEP being his first Division I gig.

“Most people in America have to take a job and then make it their dream job, that’s what you have to do in most cases. Today, I get to accept a dream job,” said Baker during his introductory press conference. “In 1994, I was 21 years old when I started coaching. I used to tell people I want to coach the biggest game at the highest level. I want to win a national championship at Division I.”

At Division II Angelo State, Baker led the Rambelles to a combined record of 50-14 in two seasons (2015-16, 2016-17) with a trip to the NCAA Tournament in the 2015-16 campaign. In the 2016-17 campaign, Baker led Angelo State to it’s first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 and a runner-up finish in the NCAA South Central Regional.

Prior to Angelo State, Baker coached just 365 miles east at Division III UT-Tyler. Baker went a combined 72-16 with UT Tyler in three seasons (2012-15), taking the Patriots to their first NCAA Sweet 16 in school history in the 2013-14 season.

After setting a school record for wins in 2012-13 with 18, Baker led UT Tyler to back-to-back American Southwest Conference Championships (2013-14, 2014-15) while breaking his own record for wins yet again with 27 in both seasons.

Out of his combined five seasons at both Angelo State and UT-Tyler, Baker has won four conference titles and has been named Conference Coach of the Year four times, all in a row.

“I knew for me to excel in this profession, I was going to have to win,” said Baker. “So no matter what I did, no matter what job I took, I was going to have to win.”

Before his time coaching in college, Baker coached in high school for 10 years as a head coach and as an assistant for three years prior.

Baker started his career as an assistant at Hudson High School in his hometown of Lufkin, Texas, in 1994. Baker earned his first go at being a head coach when he took over the reins at Commerce High School in 1997, going 18-10 in his first season.

Baker put together three seasons with 29 or more wins with a combined record of 222-101 in the high school prep ranks. Baker went 29-4 at Palestine High School in 1999-2000 and 30-4 at Nacogdoches High School in 2002-03, where he set school records for victories while earning  district and bi-district titles at each. 

“I’m proud of a lot of things in my career, a lot, but the number one thing that I’m most proud of is that every school that I’ve ever coached at from 1994 until now, we’ve won a championship, multiple championships,” Baker said.

Baker has just one losing season since being a head coach of women’s basketball and that came in his first season as being a head coach at Nacogdoches (2000-01), where he posted a 5-22 mark. The five-win total for Baker is his lowest win total in all 15 years of coaching.

The lowest win total in his other combined 14 years of head coaching was 18 wins three times. Commerce High School in 1997-98 (18-10), Palestine High School in 1998-99 (18-13), and his first season at UT-Tyler in 2012-13 (18-9).

“At the end of the day, this has been a 23-year climb,” Baker said. “So when I tell you that this is the happiest day of my life, I can mean it because it took me very, very long to get here. That’s why I can stand up here and give you some genuine joy, my climb wasn’t easy. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody, but it’s made me a better coach and a better person.”

Baker will now aim at replicating what former head coach Keitha Adams was able to do with women’s basketball at UTEP.

Adams, the three-time Conference USA Coach of the Year (2008, 2012, 2016) is UTEP’s all-time win leader with 284 victories in 16 seasons. Adams won 20 or more games in six different seasons to go along with four C-USA championships (three regular season titles, one tournament title) and four post-season tournament bids (two NCAA, two WNIT).

Prior to Adams arrival at UTEP in 2001, the women’s basketball team had not won more than 18 games in a single season and had only posted a winning record five times in 25 seasons.

“It’s very well known what she (Adams) did with UTEP women’s basketball, she’s a legend and that can never be taken for granted or taken away, that’s fact,” Baker said. “When you come into a situation that I am in, it’s pretty simple for me, I just want to build on what she did, I’m not looking on it any other way than that, that’s what I want to do here; I think we can and know we can.”

Baker’s first season with his new Miners follows a tough 2017-18 campaign, where the squad went just 8-23 overall and 5-13 in Conference USA play.