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'NEXT STEP': Ulland resigns as Jimmie women's basketball coach

Former University of Jamestown women's basketball coach Greg Ulland (standing) directs the Jimmies during action last winter at Harold Newman Arena. Ulland resigned as coach Tuesday after accepting a new position with the university. John M. Steiner / The Sun1 / 2
Coach Greg Ulland visits with the Jimmie women's basketball team during a timeout at the Harold Newman Arena on the University of Jamestown campus. John M. Steiner / The Sun2 / 2

Greg Ulland is taking his passion for University of Jamestown from the hardcourt at Newman Arena to an office in Liechty Center/Taber Hall.

The winningest head coach by percentage in Jimmie women's basketball history, Ulland became the university's vice president of enrollment management Tuesday, resigning as women's basketball coach in the process. The Strasburg, N.D., native and 2001 University of Jamestown graduate explained the move was all about timing.

"An opportunity presented itself for me to take the next step in life, so to speak," said Ulland. "The possibility of making a bigger impact at UJ is something that's always been in the back of my head. The experiences I've had here—I could tell stories for days—have made me who I am today, and I want to give more people the opportunity to come to UJ and be a Jimmie."

The hire certainly appears to be a win for the university. Ulland's exceptional knack for locating, recruiting and retaining outstanding student-athletes for his basketball teams—year after year—should translate well as he turns his attention to recruiting for the institution as a whole.

Ulland guided the Jimmie women to an impressive 215 victories in 261 games (.824) in his eight seasons at the helm. Former UJ vice president of enrollment management Michael Heitkamp resigned last month.

"It's great for the institution, it really is and that's the most important thing," said University of Jamestown athletics director Sean Johnson. "Because Greg is such a good basketball coach, he could coach at any level, anywhere. There's no doubt in my mind.

"The fact he is staying here to make even a bigger impact at his alma mater speaks to the commitment he has to the University of Jamestown."

Culture of success

Since taking over the program in 2010, Ulland put University of Jamestown women's basketball on the map. Never losing more than eight games in a single season, the Jimmies have won all five North Star Athletic Association regular season conference championships, part of seven straight appearances at the the NAIA Division II national tournament.

The former Dakota Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, and four-time NSAA Coach of the Year, produced five NAIA All-Americans and four conference MVPs. Ulland and the Jimmies dominated NSAA competition since the conference's inception in 2013-14, posting a conference record of 59-3.

"Greg is a person who demonstrates passion and commitment in everything he does," stated University of Jamestown president Polly Peterson in an press release issued by UJ. "He has achieved tremendous success as a coach, recruiter and member of the faculty and is committed to the vision of our university."

University of Jamestown embarks on a new chapter as a member of the Great Plains Athletic Conference this fall. Ulland was a former assistant women's basketball coach at North Dakota, Mayville State and University of Mary prior to coaching the Jimmies.

"Greg's laid the foundation—the house, the neighborhood—for our women's basketball program," Johnson said. "He'll be a difficult act to follow, but at the same time it's a great opportunity for somebody to come in and take the reins."

A coach and mentor

Ulland's last season was arguably the Jimmies' best. Jamestown won a school record 31 games in 2017-18, soaring to as high as sixth in the NAIA top 25 coaches' poll and advancing to the Elite 8 at nationals for a third time in four years.

Incoming senior forward Marina Nowak has played a large role in the Jimmies' recent success. Understandably, she and the rest of the team were surprised with Tuesday's announcement.

"We were definitely thrown for a loop with (Ulland) informing us about his resignation," Nowak said. "He was a great coach and I'm glad I got to expand my game from him the past three years."

Nowak, an exercise science major from Rogers, Minn., was recruited by Ulland out of high school. She, along with many others, are a ringing endorsement for Ulland and his new gig.

"Greg kept on reassuring me it'd feel like home, and over the past three years this place has definitely become my second home and I've found my second family within the team," Nowak said. "Although I'm sad he won't be a part of my senior year, I'm extremely proud and happy for him and his family and wish him the best."

Ulland said saying goodbye to the team, which helped him reach the 200-win plateau last December, was difficult. The former coach holds a bachelor's degree in physical education from UJ and a master's degree in kinesiology from UND.

"I talked to the team (Tuesday) morning, and it was a very, very tough conversation," Ulland said. "You put a lot of time into those kids and they put a lot of faith in you. But I think they understand there's bigger things out there.

"Being a Jimmie is something special, and now I'm going to go out and try to get as many Jimmies as we possibly can."

Ulland and his wife, Brandie, have two daughters; Mea (10) and Harper (6.) Johnson said the search for Ulland's replacement on the bench is currently underway.

"We need to move quickly, but my biggest focus right now is making sure we do what's best for the student-athletes," Johnson said. "We have the pieces in place and one of the reasons for that is because of Greg. I'm extremely confident we'll find the right person."

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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