RICHMOND, INDIANA — Jeff Hans views the move from NCAA Division III to NAIA as good thing for his program.
Hans, who is now in his ninth season as the head coach of the Thomas More women’s basketball team, is still adjusting to the move.
“This is all new to us, with being NAIA and the roller coaster of being able to start (the season) this early. We’re not used to playing games right now,” Hans, a 1995 graduate of National Trail High School, said after his team knocked off host IU East 76-58 last week. “We’d be scrimmaging and getting ready to play this coming weekend. There’s a lot trying to figure how it is to go early and the length of the season. The summer was interesting where we were able to practice and do some things with them in July. We were not able to do that in (NCAA) Division III. Being able to be around our players more and be with them, it’s a good thing. And trying to figure out all the teams. Everybody is new to us and we’re new to them. It’s different.”
Hans and the Saints won the D-III national championship last season, going a perfect 33-0. It was their second national title in four years. They won the first during the 2015-16 season.
“Every year you have a new team, new roles and we’re still trying to find ourselves in a lot of ways,” he said. “We’re trying to replace a couple of really good (players). We’ve done it in the past. They play hard, they work hard. We don’t have to teach the effort so now it’s just trying to fix the basketball side of things.”
So far the results have been the same.
TMU is off to a 3-0 start and is ranked No. 21 in the country.
The Saints will host No. 22 Michigan-Dearborn on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 6 p.m. at the Connor Convocation Center in Crestview Hills, Kentucky.
Playing at IU East in Richmond, Indiana afforded Hans the opportunity to coach in front of several family members and friends who made the trip on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
“It’s nice being here in front of family and have a bunch of people come and watch us play,” he said. “We draw pretty well anyways, especially at home, but on the road, having the extra people here is always nice. It’s good to have the family and see some people I haven’t seen in a while.”
Hans said the key thus far has been having players buy into what the program is about and inviting them back once they’ve graduated.
“(Getting) players that buy into playing together for the entire time and not worrying about their individual stats. That starts with our seniors. That starts with our alumni that have been here. We led the country in assist to turnover ratio in NCAA Division III six out of the eight years I’ve been here,” he said. “Getting good kids that will work and they can play. Getting Sydney Moss to transfer back was a big start to help push us over the top. The biggest thing is watching them mature and come in a freshman and walk across the stage and graduate with a diploma and keeping those relationships that you have with the alumni. It’s big for our program. It creates a good culture.”
Hans played basketball, baseball, and golf as a Blazer and started his coaching career during his junior year at Wilmington College, taking on a junior varsity coaching spot at Clinton-Massie High School in 1998. His uncle, Mike Harrison, is currently Trail’s head boys’ basketball coach as well.
Hans has guided the Saints to a 207-11 record (.950), six Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) regular season and tournament titles and seven NCAA Tournament appearances, including two NCAA Division III National Championships.
In his first season (2011-12) on the Thomas More sidelines, Hans led the Saints to a 25-5 overall record and a 17-1 record in the PAC. Along the way, the Saints won their seventh straight PAC regular season title, sixth straight PAC Championship Tournament title and made their sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament, where they advanced to the second round.
Hans guided the Saints to a 27-2 record during his second season (2012-13) in Crestview Hills. He was named the PAC Coach of the Year after leading the Saints to their eighth straight PAC regular season title, seventh straight PAC Championship Tournament title and their seventh straight appearance in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
Hans’ third season (2013-14) the team posted a 31-1 overall record, including an 18-0 record in the PAC. He was named PAC Coach of the Year after leading the Saints to their ninth-straight PAC regular season and eighth PAC Championship Tournament title, while making the program’s deepest run in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament at the time as the Saints advanced to the Sectional Finals “Elite 8.” Thomas More, who entered the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 1 in the country, led all of Division III (431 teams) in six statistical categories. The Saints led the nation in scoring offense (94.4 points per game), scoring margin (38.1), field goal percentage (51.1), assists per game (23.3), assists turnover ratio (1.95) and turnover margin (+14.63.). Thomas More also finished in the Top-3 in three other categories as it was second in won-lost percentage (96.9) and steals per game (16.3) and was third in turnovers per game (11.9). Sophomore guard/forward Sydney Moss was named NCAA Division III Player of the Year at the end of the season.
In his fifth season (2015-16), Hans guided the Saints to an undefeated season (33-0) and won the National Championship as the team defeated No. 7-ranked Tufts University, 63-51, in the title game in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was named the Division III National Coach of the Year by D3hoops.com and DIII News. The Saints were ranked in the Top-2 of six statistical categories — they were first in scoring margin (+37.6), field goal percentage (47.9), assist turnover ratio (1.98) and won-lost percentage (100.0), while ranking second in scoring offense (91.3) and turnover margin (10.91). Thomas More won the PAC regular season and PAC Championship Tournament. Senior guard/forward Sydney Moss was named the NCAA Division III Player of the Year for the second time in her career.
In Hans’ sixth season (2016-17), he led the Saints to a 28-1 record, including a perfect 25-0 regular season and an 18-0 mark in the PAC. Thomas More won the PAC regular season and championship tournament, while advancing to the NCAA Championship Tournament. The Saints led the nation in two team statistical categories — they were first in scoring margin (+33.4) and assist turnover ratio (1.79), while they were third in scoring offense (85.9). Michaela Ware was first in the nation in assist turnover ratio (3.96) and Madison Temple was third (3.02).
In his seventh season with the Saints (2017-18), Hans led the team to a 30-2 overall record, going 18-0 in the PAC, and reaching the NCAA “Final Four,” where the Saints fell 66-48 to Amherst, who went on to win the National Title. Hans led the team to a season-best No. 3 ranking after being ranked No. 16 during the regular season. The Saints finished the season averaging 85.0 points per game, a .486 field-goal percentage, 17.6 assists per game, and 42.4 rebounds per game. Thomas More finished the season allowing only 51.4 points per game. Madison Temple was named the All-Great Lakes Player of the Year, PAC Player of the Year, earned WBCA All-America honors, and was named D3Hoops.com All-American. Abby Owings was named All-Great Lakes First-Team a Jostens Trophy Finalist, named to All-Great Lakes First-Team, WBCA All-America honors, and D3Hoops.com All-American.
Hans came to Thomas More from Northern Kentucky University, where he was the top assistant on Nancy Winstel’s women’s basketball staff for the past three seasons. He assisted in all areas of coaching, scouting and recruiting for the Norse.
Hans spent four years as a head girls basketball coach in Kentucky, at Lexington Catholic from 2006-2008 and St. Henry from 2004-2006. In his four years as a high school head coach, Hans had an 89-34 record, won two district titles and finished as regional runner-up twice.
Prior to his four years at the high school level, Hans spent five years as an assistant at the college level. He was an assistant at Division I Indiana State University from 2002-2004, graduate assistant at NKU from 2001-2002 and an assistant at Wilmington College from 1999-2001.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or follow on Twitter @emowen_RH