A new era for women's basketball is starting at Judson University in Elgin as former Illinois State University all-American and WNBA player Kristi Cirone has been named the new head for the Eagles. Cirone comes to Judson after two years as a graduate assistant at the University of Missouri.
"Judson University is blessed to receive such a person as Kristi to take over our women's basketball program," said Director of Athletics Tony Tompkins. "She brings a professional caliber with her and is already respected in the collegiate basketball world for her accomplishments at Illinois State. I am excited for her and for Judson and looking forward to the future success of our women's basketball program."
Cirone, a Chicago native, enters her first head coaching position after being a graduate assistant for two years at the University of Missouri under Robin Pingeton. She brings to Judson NCAA Division I playing and coaching experience along with professional playing experience in the WNBA with the Connecticut Sun and Chicago Sky and in Greece and Poland.
"I am extremely blessed and excited to be the new women's basketball coach at Judson University which is such a high class and respected institution," says Cirone. "I am very passionate about impacting the lives of my student-athletes and helping them grow in every aspect of their lives. I want to prepare them to be leaders of the future and to have a profound impact on the lives of others."
Cirone's coaching philosophy has been shaped and molded from her experiences at Illinois State and Missouri under Pingeton. Cirone went to Illinois State to help rebuild a program as a key player for Pingeton. In four years of collegiate play, Cirone left Illinois State as the three-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, four-year starter and captain, a two-time WBCA and Associated Press Honorable Mention all-American while being named a John Wooden nominee as the nation's best player. She guided Illinois State to two WNIT and one NCAA Tournament berths in her time and won back-to-back Missouri Valley Conference championships, too. She was also only the second player in Missouri Valley Conference history to be named the Player of the Year three times. In 2010, Illinois State recognized her accomplishments by retiring her No. 10 jersey.
She still holds seven career records and two single season records at Illinois State. She is the all-time leader in points (2,139), 3-point field goals made (229), 3-point field goals attempted (613), free throws made (512), free throws attempted (655), assists (681), and assists per game (5.3). The single season records she holds are points in a season (657; 2008-09) and assists (203; 2008-09).
Here playing career did not stop as she continued professionally in Greece and Poland and the WNBA. She was a free agent signee with Connecticut Sun in 2009 and was Illinois State's first alum to play in the WNBA. The 2009-10 season she was in Greece and Poland and then finished up her professional career with the Chicago Sky in 2010 attending opening camp.
She was an All-State player for Resurrection High School in Chicago and she played for the Illinois Hustle AAU team. She continues a family tradition of coaching as her father, Frank, is the girls basketball coach at Northside Prep High School and her uncle, Vito Andriola, is the head football coach at Dundee-Crown High School.
Cirone is a 2009 graduate of Illinois State University with a degree in Exercise Science and just earned her master's degree from the University of Missouri in Educational and Counseling Psychology. She has already started her position at Judson and will run the girls summer basketball camps.
Cotton to lead men's program: Stepping in to lead the Judson men's basketball program after three years of being the assistant coach, Joel Cotton is the new head coach of Judson University. Cotton brings with him NCAA Division I and III coaching experience to Judson as he looks to build upon a foundation that has won three CCAC Championships in the past five years while making two trips to the NAIA Division II National Tournament.
"Joel brings a presence with him to the court as a coach that Judson University will benefit from," said Tony Tompkins. "He has done a great job as an assistant the past three years and I feel privileged to give him his first head coaching position. His knowledge of the game and strong recruiting skills will help take Judson up a level in the NAIA."
Cotton brings to the court nine seasons of collegiate coaching experience from the NCAA Division I level to NAIA. He started his coaching career under Doug Noll and then worked under current Michigan State University men's basketball assistant coach Dane Fife at Indiana University-Purdue University Ft. Wayne as the Director of Basketball Operations before moving onto Anderson University (NCAA Division III) and Judson (NAIA).
"I am excited and humbled about the opportunity to be named the head men's basketball coach at Judson University," says Cotton. "I want to thank Tony Tompkins for placing his trust in me to continue the success he has built in the men's basketball program. God has provided many open doors in my coaching career and I look forward to seeing God lead in this new position. I have enjoyed working with the Judson community for the past three years and I look forward to continuing to help our student-athletes maximize their athletic potential, while also realizing their God-given purpose in life."
Cotton graduated from Indiana University in 2003 with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology where he was also a student-athlete competing in cross country and track and field in the Big 10. He was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection for track and field and made the team once in cross country. He received his master's degree in Professional Communication from Purdue University in 2005. He is married to his wife, Jennifer, and they reside in Geneva, Ill., with their 11-month old son, Caden.