WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — It may have been sooner than she expected, but Katie Gearlds is set to lead the Purdue women's basketball program as it officially begins practices Wednesday.
Gearlds, a former Boilermaker, was hired as the team's associate head coach to take a back seat to Sharon Versyp for one last season. She takes over the program after Versyp announced her retirement on Sept. 16.
Versyp, the winningest head coach in Purdue women's basketball history, stepped down from her position after being investigated by the university for her behavior. Gearlds was originally slated to focus on recruiting before Versyp retired with one year remaining on her contract.
"We're really excited to officially launch the coach Katie Gerald's era here at Purdue," Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski said. "You know, we appreciate everything that coach Versyp has done over the years and appreciate everything that she's provided to this program."
Purdue women's basketball is scheduled to start the 2021-22 season on Nov. 10 — on the road against Western Kentucky. After overseeing some of the day-to-day operations in the offseason, Gearlds is responsible for all of it.
Gearlds takes a seat in the big chair after just six months, and she said Versyp was ready for the next stage of her life. In such a short time, she's already developed a strong connection with the 15 members of the basketball team and continues to do the same with potential recruits.
"This summer I felt like they really grabbed onto me," Gearlds said. "You know, it wasn't that long ago that I was here, at least that's what I tell myself in my mind every day. So I can relate to them a little bit, speak their language, try to have the cooler shoes than they do. But that was it, that was number one, just just connecting with them on a different level."
Gearlds played four years at Purdue, between 2003 and 2007. Under Versyp, she led the Boilermakers to an Elite Eight appearance in her final year of college and was an eventual first round draft pick in the WNBA by the Seattle Storm. She played professionally for three seasons.
Before returning to her alma mater, Gearlds spent the past eight years as the head coach of Marion University. Under her guidance, the Knights won back-to-back NAIA national championships in 2016 and 2017. Gearlds is the winningest coach in Marion history with a career record of 228-50 and was a three-time NAIA National Coach of the Year.
Gearlds will look to continue her coaching success at Purdue, where the program hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2017. She brings a fresh mindset to the building, and the players are already buying into it.
"I'm a firm believer that the basketball gods are going to take care of everything if you do things the right way, and that's what we're going to do," Gearlds said. "We're going to do things the right way, the girls have bought into the culture that we're trying to establish here and being hard to beat.
"When you're hard to beat, you win games at home. You got Mackey Arena, you got the fans behind you, you win those games at home. You win the games you're supposed to on the road, and then when you're hard to beat, you might steal one on the road that maybe you weren't supposed to get. And I think that's the biggest thing we want to do, we want to make sure every time we step on the floor the opponent is thinking 'man, we got to play Purdue. God they play hard.'"
- SHARON VERSYP ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT: Sharon Versyp coached 15 seasons for Purdue women's basketball and is the winningest head coach in program history. Katie Gearlds steps in a year sooner than expected after joining the coaching staff in March. CLICK HERE