Busting Brackets

New Iowa women's basketball head coach Jan Jensen excited to take over the Hawkeye program

Jensen was announced as the sixth head coach in program history on Monday after legendary coach Lisa Bluder retired after 24 seasons.
West Virginia v Iowa
West Virginia v Iowa / Matthew Holst/GettyImages

It's been a whirpool of a week for the Iowa women's basketball program. On Monday, legendary head coach Lisa Bluder announced her retirement after 24 seasons and 533 victories. Minutes after the announcement, longtime assistant coach Jan Jensen was named the sixth head coach in program history.

To most people surrounding the program, this was no surprise. Jensen had served as an assistant coach under Bluder for the past 31 seasons, dating back to Bluder's tenure at Drake. Jensen became Iowa's associate head coach in 2004 and was responsible for the recruitement of many program greats such as Caitlin Clark, Megan Gustafson, and Monika Czinano. She is also known for her development of post players, and Gustafson won the Naismith Player of the Year award in 2019 under Jensen's leadership.

Not surprisingly, Jensen had many opportunities to leave Iowa and become a head coach elsewhere. In 2000, she was offered the head coaching position at Drake after Bluder left for Iowa. But after mulling it over, she decided to follow her mentor to Iowa City. In her introductory press conference on Wednesday, Jensen said she has had many chances to leave, but chose to stay in part due to her loyalty to Bluder, who will stay with the program in an advisory role.

"There were two, maybe three opportunities where I was like woah, maybe I should go," Jensen told David Eickholt of 247 Sports. "But now I have my dream job at my dream place with my dream title."

In the days of NIL, a coaching change can often lead to an entire roster entering the transfer portal. At Iowa, that is not the case. Jensen said that one of her first wins as head coach was to retain bring everyone back, including incoming Villanova transfer Lucy Olsen, who committed to the Hawkeyes last month. Along with the current squad, Jensen will also have talented 2024 and 2025 recruiting classes that include five-star Addie Deal and four-star Journey Houston.

That continuity is crucial for any program, but especially a program with as much momentum as Iowa. The Hawkeyes reached the national championship games in back-to-back seasons and won a school-record 34 games last year. In the process, they gained a nationwide following and played in front of sellout crowds in most of their games, including all home contests at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Jensen said the culture is what has led to her program's large fanbase.

"A lot of people came for Caitlin, but they stayed for Hannah, they stayed for Sydney, and they stayed for Gabbie," Jensen said. "They stayed for the culture."

Finally, Jensen mentioned how her Iowa roots have influenced her through her coaching career. She hails from Kimballton, Iowa - a small community in the western part of the state with a population of roughly 300 residents. Jensen averaged 66 points per game during her senior season of high school in 1987, a mark that led the entire nation that year. For her accomplishments, she was inducted into the Iowa Girls High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. 

Jensen stayed in state and moved on to Drake University in Des Moines, where she once again led the country in scoring during her senior season in 1991. Following a few professional seasons in Europe, she returned to Drake in 1993 as an assistant coach and coached with Bluder until her retirement.

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"Nobody loves this place as much as I do," Jensen said. "I'm in awe that I get to stand here in this capacity."