Hall of Fame Spotlight: Brian Agler
UMKC Athletics 1-17-2013
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By David Boyce

When a university decides to make a jump in level in athletics, growing pains are sure to follow in the first few seasons.

In the late 1980s, UMKC made a monumental leap from NAIA to NCAA Division I, skipping the step most schools take of first competing in NCAA Division II.

It would have been acceptable and understandable if the UMKC women's basketball program won seven or eight games in the first season or two at the Division I level.

That was not the attitude of women's basketball coach Brian Agler.

Men's basketball coach and athletic director Lee Hunt didn't bring in coaches with that mentality when he was brought in to help UMKC make the transition to Division I.

It was simply an exciting time for all involved.

"I just remember Coach Hunt putting together an athletic department," Agler said. "It wasn't really big. We were like a family."

A strong family in athletics oftentimes achieves more success than is logically thought possible.

From 1988 to 1993, during UMKC's infancy period at Division I, Agler guided the Kangaroos to victories that remain quite remarkable nearly a quarter of a century later.

After going 9-16 in the first season, the Kangaroos won 17 or more games in each of the next four seasons, including 24 victories in the 1991-92 season. It remains a record for wins in a season.

In going 85-54 during those five years, Agler's teams picked up victories against Missouri, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Baylor.

"I think that we tried to recruit players who would fit the UMKC dynamics, a school that was going from the NAIA level to the Division I level," Agler said. "We found quality people that were exceptional athletes, good students and great competitors."

All these years later, Agler remains the most successful UMKC women's basketball coach in the Division I era. His induction into the UMKC Hall of Fame was inevitable.

Agler is part of the 2012-13 class who will be officially inducted January 25th.

"It is quite an honor," Agler said. "I spent probably five of my most enjoyable years of coaching at UMKC."

Agler left UMKC for Kansas State for three seasons. After K-State, Agler moved to the professional level, guiding the Columbus Quest of the American Basketball League to an 82-22 record in three seasons.

Over the last five years, Agler has coached the Seattle Storm in the WNBA. He guided the Storm to their second WNBA title in 2010. That team went 28-6.

Agler learned a few things during his time at UMKC that has helped him become a highly successful professional coach.

"I think the one thing I learned, you don't always look at the size of the player but you measure the quality of people they are and the skill level they have and the type of competitors they are," Agler said.

More times than not in basketball, UMKC is going to get the athlete who probably isn't as tall or as fast as the ones schools in BCS conference will attract.

That wasn't a deterrent for Agler.

"Sometimes we would get the type of player who were an inch or two shorter, but maybe have a little more heart than the people we were playing against," Agler said. "We had the ability to have quite a bit of success."

So every time the Kangaroos took the court during those early years at Division I, Agler believed he had the players to win no matter what obstacles they faced.

"People looked at us like we were the underdog, but the reality was our players never thought they were the underdog," Agler said. "They felt they could compete with anybody."

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