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Johns Hopkins' Nancy Funk Ends Memorable Coaching Career

April 27, 2017
Nancy Funk is the mother of three adult children and grandmother to five youngsters. Now, she'll have more time to spend with them. 

After an accomplished 31-year career as the head women's basketball coach at Johns Hopkins University, Funk announced her retirement April 25. Since arriving at Johns Hopkins' Homewood campus prior to the 1986-87 season, Funk had coached the Blue Jays to a 537-264 record, 26 winning seasons, four Centennial Conference titles and 10 NCAA Division III Tournament appearances. From 1994-2000, Funk's teams earned six consecutive NCAA bids and reached the Elite Eight during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 campaigns. 

Funk earned the Centennial Conference's Coach of the Year award for the second time after guiding a young 2016-17 Johns Hopkins team to a 13-12 record and a berth in the league playoffs. But while she still enjoyed coaching, Funk decided she was ready for the next stage of a successful life. 

"I can't really put a date on [retirement thoughts]," said Funk, who will officially retire June 30. "[My husband] Dave and I would talk about the possibility, and he was my voice of reason. He said, 'Are you OK with Oct. 15 coming around and you not being on the basketball court?' and I was. I have five grandchildren between the ages of six and 12, and I wouldn't want to miss the next few years."

Funk said it wasn't easy telling her team, which will graduate three seniors, about her decision to retire. 

"I always wanted to know that I had the energy to give to the girls, and they need more these days," said Funk, a 1977 graduate of Messiah College. "I told them in our final meeting [April 24] that I brought them as far as I could, and now it's time for them to fly." 

Funk came to Johns Hopkins after nine seasons as the head coach at her alma mater. Funk's Messiah teams went 126-89 during her tenure at the Mechanicsburg, Pa., school. Her 663 career victories at Johns Hopkins and Messiah put Funk in eighth place all-time in NCAA Division III women's basketball history. 

During her three-plus decades at Johns Hopkins, Funk developed the Blue Jays' most heralded players. Under her guidance, 80 of Funk's student-athletes received all-conference honors. Funk's players earned All-America recognition seven times, including a pair of first-team choices in forward Julie Anderson (1997-98) and guard Leslie Ritter (1999-2000). She also produced four players who were honored as the Centennial Conference's Player of the Year. 

Former Johns Hopkins standouts Amy Dodrill (1995) and Angie Arnold (1998) won the prestigious Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, which was given to the nation's top women's basketball player who stood 5-foot-8 or under. Dodrill and Arnold also earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships.

"The greatest blessing of coaching is the connection to the players, and then seeing them do well beyond their college years," Funk said. "I'm honored to have shared a piece of their time while they were here." 

Funk inherited a Johns Hopkins program that had posted 11 consecutive losing seasons. From the inaugural 1975-76 season until Funk's arrival, five different coaches guided the Blue Jays to a 44-136 combined record. During her first two seasons, Funk's squads combined for a 12-27 mark. A 12-10 record in 1988-89 signaled a change in direction and began a string of 25 winning seasons throughout the next 27 years. 

But the on-court success only partially defined Funk's impact. 

"My first impression of Nancy was that her record and competitive success stands out," said Alanna Shanahan, Johns' Hopkins' first-year athletic director. "But in my first month here, I got the sense of how invested she was in the program. She was such a mentor and a resource to our other coaches. At an alumni function during the season, I saw the admiration that her former players had for her. They were very appreciative of the experience they had with Nancy." 

Johns Hopkins will conduct a national search for Funk's successor, who will take over a much different program than the one Funk inherited in 1986. 

"Anyone that we bring in will have an awesome appreciation for what Nancy has accomplished," Shanahan said. "She's done much more than just create a foundation for the program. There's so much upside that can be handed off to the new coach."

The Blue Jays will return four starters from the 2016-17 team, which finished 13-12 overall and 12-8 in the Centennial Conference. The backcourt of rising juniors Lillian Scott (15.6 points, 3.7 rebounds per game), Lexie Scholtz (9.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.9 assists) and Madison McGrath (8.4 points, 2.1 assists) will be a particular strength for a 2017-18 squad with no seniors. 

"If I had stayed another year, then I would have to stay for an additional year, because leaving a rising senior class is really tough," Funk said. "I wouldn't have that situation if I left now." 

Funk will miss the daily interactions with her Johns Hopkins colleagues, especially retiring men's basketball coach Bill Nelson. The two coaches started their Johns Hopkins careers at the same time. 

"Working with the coaches here has been a gift," Funk said. "The greatest gift has been the opportunity to work alongside my colleague Bill Nelson for the last 31 years. He has the highest integrity, and he's been my friend. Wanda Richardson has been my assistant coach for 23 years, and she deserves a lot of credit."

After she retires, Funk plans to spend a lot of time at her family's place on the New Jersey shore. 

"There's a lot of life out there, and bucket-list trips that we want to make," she said. "Now, I want to try other things that aren't related to sports and indulge my interests in artwork and interior design."