Ex NU Coach Connie Yori
Recently, the Nebraska sports world was rocked with the news of the resignation of Connie Yori, from her position as Head Coach of the University of Nebraska Lady Husker basketball team. Yori, after 14 years at the helm, has emerged as the winningest coach in the program's history, with some 280 victories against 166 defeats, for a .628 winning percentage, at Nebraska, 475-306 overall, in 26 seasons of coaching. Not only on the court has Nebraska made amazing improvement under Yori's leadership, there has also been noteworthy progress in the classroom and community service for the Lady Husker hoopsters.
Along the way Ms. Yori has garnered an impressive list of individual honors, among which were---1. Seven NCAA appearances for the team, 2. Two Sweet 16 appearances in the tournament. 3. National Coach of the Year in 2010, 4. Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2015, and 5. Twelve seasons in which the team qualified for post-season play in one or another of the post-season tournaments.. Perhaps, though, most impressively, Yori has instilled a spirit of excellence and high expectations for the Lady Husker basketball program. In doing so Yori has produced annual All American, and All Big Ten players on her Husker teams, and an expectation that each year the team will qualify for post-season play.
Nebraska's Lady Husker fortunes really came together in 2010. The team improved by 17 wins over the 2009 season, on the way to a record setting 30-0 regular season mark, the first team in league history that a Big Ten team has posted a perfect 30-0 record for the regular season. In doing so, the Huskers set a Big Ten attendance record of over 11,000 per game, including one game in which there were some 13,000 fans---previously unheard of in the Big Ten and other leagues around the nation for female basketball games.
In 2010 probably the best player in NU history emerged, in the form of Kelsey Griffin, an Australian/American, who grew up and played high school basketball in Eagle River, Alaska. Ms. Griffin scored a record number of points, 2,033 while at Nebraska, along with 1019 rebounds. In 2010 she was chosen 1st team All American and drafted 3rd overall by the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA, before ultimately being traded to the Connecticut Suns.
Connie Yori grew up in Iowa and made her mark on the Sports World at Ankeny High School (suburb of Des Moines,) graduating in 1982. On the hardwoods, Yori put up a mind-boggling number of points (3056), while leading her Ankeny team to a state championship in 1981. In her day Iowa girls still played under the old six on six rules, in which an offensive six handled the offense and could not defend past the mid-court line, while the defensive six could not score and had to stay behind the mid-court line.
As impressive as Yori's statistics were for basketball, for a long time Yori was known as a softball player, graduating from high school as the state's best shortstop, leading Ankeny to three state softball titles during her high school career, in 1979, '80 and '81. Connie Yori is a two time inductee in the Iowa High School Girls' Hall of Fame, both as a basketball player and as a softball player. During the summers Yori frequently joined one or another of the barnstorming softball teams who challenged local nines for area bragging rights. A very good hitter, as well as an outstanding defensive star, very often Yori took her place on men's teams, where she more than held her own with the men in terms of contribution to the team.
However, when it came to college, Yori chose to accept a scholarship offer in basketball at Creighton University in Omaha. Again she was successful, both in the classroom and on the court. In four years at Creighton Yori scored some 2010 points as a member of the Bluejay basketball team, which ranks as 3rd on the All time Bluejay scoring list. She also ranks at or near the top in several other basketball categories, all of which resulted in her being named to the Creighton University Hall of Fame, and led to the retirement of her jersey (#25).
Yori graduated in 1986 with a degree in Journalism from Creighton, then spent the next three years as an assistant in the basketball program. In 1989 Yori moved to Miami, Florida, where she earned a Master's degree in Sports Administration at St. Thomas University. She spent one more year at St. Thomas as the head softball coach at the school, before returning to Dubuque, Iowa, where she was head basketball coach at Loras College, for two years.
In 1992 Yori replaced Bruce Rasmussen, her old coach and mentor, as head women's basketball coach at Creighton University. In her 10 years as the head coach of the women's team Yori compiled an enviable record 170-115 record, which included trips to post-season tournaments and Missouri Valley Conference Championships.
Despite her success at Creighton, when the head coaching position at Nebraska opened up, Yori again packed her bags and moved to Lincoln, to take over the women's program, which seemed to be in a perpetual mediocre (at best) cycle. Though a turnaround took some time to accomplish, in the last years the Nebraska women's basketball program has served as a positive model for Universities around the nation. This is why Yori's resignation has met with so much surprise in sports circles.
The reason for Yori's resignation has not been fully explained, but bits of information keep surfacing and eventually we will probably learn the full story. This much is known. The last few years have been stressful times in Yori's life. The mother of a seven year old son, Yori's marriage to her husband, Kirk Helms, is on the rocks and presently she is in the midst of divorce proceedings and a child custody battle.
A supposedly minor knee operation in 2011 developed complications and Yori spent months battling a staph infection. In 2014 Yori collapsed on the sideline during a game with Indiana and had to be rushed to the hospital emergency ward.
More recently, her situation with the basketball team has soured and she has been faced with transfers by key players to other schools. With the news that the University Athletic Department has been conducting an investigation on charges that Yori has bullied and mistreated members of the Husker team, (charges that Yori vehemently denies and a number of former Husker players and staff members back up), Yori tendered her resignation, which was immediately accepted by NU Athletic Director, Shawn Eichhorst. Yori will be replaced by former Husker standout, Amy Williams, who has been serving as the South Dakota University head coach.
Connie Yori will be fine. She will receive a settlement of some $1.2 Million from the University and can take her great record of wins and losses, plus a proven record of building successful basketball programs to another University, but her leaving Nebraska leaves many--- present and former players, fans and staff, feeling sad and confused. It is an unfortunate situation. All we can do is extend Ms. Yori our thanks and good luck, and offer a warm welcome to new coach, Amy Williams, and hope that the successful NU Women's basketball program can continue.
World Herald, Lincoln Journal and NUAthletic bulletins.