Detroit Mercy hires women's basketball coach with experience starting from scratch

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit In hiring its fourth head women's basketball coach in four years, Detroit Mercy is turning to someone with experience taking over a program rocked by adversity.

Kate Achter, who spent the last six seasons as head coach at Loyola Chicago, was named Detroit Mercy's next head coach Wednesday. Achter takes over for LaTanya Collins, who spent the last season as interim head coach after the university fired AnnMarie Gilbert following multiple investigations into her alleged treatment of players.

At Loyola Chicago, Achter replaced Sheryl Swoopes, who was accused of mistreating players.

Former Loyola Chicago coach Kate Achter will take over as head women's basketball coach at Detroit Mercy.

Achter was 67-110 in six seasons at Loyola Chicago, including 36-72 in the Missouri Valley Conference. This past season, Loyola Chicago was 18-12 (10-8 Missouri Valley), the program's most wins since 1988-89. With Loyola Chicago set to make the move to the Atlantic 10 next season, the university decided to make a change, and hired former Yale head coach Allison Guth.

Achter, called a "rising star" in college basketball coaching circles when she was hired by Loyola Chicago, previously was an assistant coach on staffs at Xavier and St. Bonaventure. At St. Bonaventure, where she was promoted to associate head coach, Achter helped lead the team to a school-record 31 wins and the Sweet 16 in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

"Kate Achter quickly rose as our top candidate based on her accomplishments and success as a coach and student-athlete," Detroit Mercy athletic director Robert Vowels said in a statement. "She has a great vision for the program, a great work ethic, highly acclaimed communication skills, and is proficient in building a team, both on and off the court."

Achter also is believed to be Detroit Mercy's first openly gay head coach. Achter has two young children, with wife Tina.

Achter, an Oregon, Ohio, native, starred collegiately at Bowling Green, leading the Falcons to four straight Mid-American Conference championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances, including the Sweet 16 in 2007. She earned All-America honors and finished fifth in scoring in program history, and the leader in assists and free throws made. 

She played one season professionally overseas before returning to Bowling Green as a graduate assistant. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Bowling Green, where she is in the school's Hall of Fame.

The challenge is tall at Detroit Mercy, which finished 1-29 this past season after losing its first 23 games of the season. The season before, the Titans were 1-13 before the season was shut down amid an investigation into Gilbert's treatment of players, who alleged emotional, mental and physical abuse — including claims of downplaying injuries and COVID-19 symptoms.

Two investigations by Detroit Mercy led to Gilbert being retained in April 2021, despite acknowledged NCAA violations over practice time. But in June, she was fired over what athletic director Robert Vowels termed an "HR personnel-related" issue.

Collins, a holdover from Gilbert's staff, was named interim coach, and had to build a completely new roster. Every player from the previous season transferred or left basketball.

When Achter took over for Swoopes in 2016, she, similarly, had to build an almost completely new roster. In March, her contract wasn't renewed.

"Throughout this process, it was evident how special the campus and community are," Achter said in a statement. "There is an immense amount of pride in the Titan family that made me feel welcomed and immediately at home. I can not wait to get to work!" 

Detroit Mercy hasn't had a winning season since 2016-17, when Bernard Scott's team made it to the Horizon League championship game. The Titans haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 1997; that was the program's only appearance.

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984