When Craig Wiginton looks back on his playing days at Oklahoma, he doesn’t remember Hearnes Center fondly.
He describes his trips to Columbia in 1976 and 1977 as ‘butt whippings’ at the hands of Norm Stewart’s teams.
Wiginton, the new assistant coach for the Missouri women’s basketball team, hopes to erase those memories and bring to the Tigers the success he enjoyed during seven seasons as the coach at Southern Nazarene.
“Before Cindy (Stein) hired me, we talked about taking this team to another level,” Wiginton said. “We’ve got to make this team understand what it takes to win championships, and that was something I was fortunate enough to do at SNU.
“I just hope that over the course of time I’ll have a chance to do that here.”
Wigington is the reigning NAIA national coach of the year after leading Southern Nazarene to the 2003 NAIA national championship.
Wiginton led Southern Nazarene, in Bethany, Okla., to the national semifinals during each of his seven seasons and also won a national title and coach of the year honors in 1997. He left Southern Nazarene with a 213-44 record, making him the winningest coach in school history.
This raises the question: Why would Wigington leave all this success to come to Missouri as an assistant coach?
“We had won a couple championships, had a lot of success and had a lot of great players come through the program,” Wiginton said. “I just felt after our great season last year it was a good time to move on and try something new and different.”
Wiginton started in coaching as a graduate assistant at Oklahoma in 1977. During 21 years of coaching, Wiginton has spent time at several Oklahoma high schools and as an assistant coach for the Southern Nazarene men’s team, but his desire to return to the Big 12 Conference played a big part in his decision to come to Missouri.
“I’ve loved this conference for many years and I’ve always dreamed of being a part of this conference again as a coach,” Wiginton said. “The thing that intrigued me about the University of Missouri was the position of the program right now, with such a good nucleus of players coming back.
“I just feel that this program is getting ready to take a step to the next level and is ready to do something special.”
Throughout the season, Wiginton hopes to become more vocal in practice and to continue developing Missouri’s post players. Wiginton will also perform the regular assistant coaching duties of watching game film, breaking down opponents and making recruiting trips, but for now he is trying to learn Stein’s system.
“I’m in a learning mode a lot like the freshmen right now,” Wiginton said. “I’m trying to pick up Cindy’s style and how she wants things taught because everyone teaches differently and it is so important to be on the same page.”
Wiginton replaced Edith Thompson, who spent two seasons as an assistant coach before becoming the team’s director of basketball operations this season. He joins Tanya Warren and Betsy Yonkman as Stein’s assistants.
Stein is pleased to have landed a coach of Wiginton’s caliber.
“He has great contacts and is very personable, which makes him a good recruiter,” Stein said. “But the big tie with us here is just his great knowledge of the game. And how he can share his expertise as another floor coach is a real plus and certainly makes the team better.”