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Whitaker leaving Western for North Alabama job

Mar. 25—Missouri Western head coach Candi Whitaker will leave the women's basketball program after a five-year run, officials announced Monday.

Whitaker will head back to the Division I ranks as it was also announced Monday that she will become the next head coach of the women's basketball program at North Alabama. Whitaker was the former head coach for Texas Tech women's basketball before coming to Western. In an interview with Missouri Western athletics following her decision, Whitaker talked about the process behind the choice to leave the program.

"It's always a hard decision when you're in a good place. And certainly we felt like we were in a great place here at Missouri Western," Whitaker said. "If it is a situation where we feel like it elevates our children's opportunities or it's a great fit for our family, now can we win there? And I think those two things are at the forefront of any decision I would make professionally and I thought both boxes were checked at North Alabama."

This puts the responsibility on the athletic department at Western to find the next head coach for the program. In a statement released Monday, they say the national search for the next head coach is underway. Athletic director Andy Carter called the news "bittersweet" when talking about Whitaker's departure in an interview within the department.

"You're always happy for good people to get opportunities that they want. And in this business, we're just not in the era of people staying in places forever anymore. It's very, a highly mobile industry, and when you're successful, there's opportunity," Carter said.

Whitaker's tenure at Western began in April of 2019 when she was hired as the ninth head coach in program history.

From the time she set foot in Looney Arena, success came instantly. In her first season in 2019-20, she led the Griffs to a 21-8 record with an appearance in the MIAA Tournament Quarterfinals.

A shortened season the following year due to COVID-19 saw the Griffon women go just 6-16, but Western would get right back to its winning ways in the seasons that followed.

Whitaker would go on to coach Western to three 20-plus win seasons and would also capture an NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Central Region Championship in 2022, as well as an MIAA regular season title in her final season with the program in 2023-24.

Jacob Meikel can be reached at jacob.meikel@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @NPNowMeikel.