Sanderford reflects on 26-year career: “We went at it like a champion”

Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 7:13 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - There are too many accomplishments in Paul Sanderford’s lengthy career to narrow down.

In 26 years of coaching with Louisburg College, Western Kentucky and Nebraska, Sanderford won over 600 games and posted a .748 career winning percentage. In his time with Western Kentucky, he enjoyed one of the best runs of any coach in state history - male or female.

WKU reached the NCAA Tournament 12 times and got to the Final Four three times, which are the Lady Toppers’ only semifinal appearances in school history. But, even remarkable achievements like that still keep the old but jovial Sanderford humbly proud.

“It’s not what Paul Sanderford did. It’s what all those players did. And we had a lot of great players, a lot of great people. People who came to Western instead of going into Southern California came to Western, instead of going to Old Dominion,” Sanderford said with a wide grin. “You know, that that was the story.”

Although Sanderford says he isn’t “retired,” he currently resides in Bowling Green with his wife, where he makes occasional appearances with current and former WKU coaches like Greg Collins, Darrin Horn and Willie Taggart among others. When he talks about why he chose to stay in Bowling Green, he reflects on the culture that was promoted within the program.

“Good things happen to good people who work hard. I always was taught that at home. And, you know, everybody around me had to work hard. You know, I didn’t, I demanded that my staff and the players work hard. And I tried to lead by example.

Today, there are multiple coaches who have branched out of the mold of Sanderford’s success. Current Louisville women’s head coach Jeff Walz once served as Sanderford’s assistant at both WKU and Nebraska. Furthermore, his former player, Michelle Clark-Heard, leads the Cincinnati Bearcats’ women’s program.

When he looks back at the numbers, player and assistant-turned coaches, and accolades, he says that it all boils down to his simple mindset.

“We went at it like a champion and that’s what we were.”

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