ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Never underestimate the power of pizza.
It was while enjoying a pizza lunch with some of the local Tabor College women basketball players that Chanda Rigby became convinced she should move her family 900 miles to become the Bluejays’ head hoops coach.
Actually, it wasn’t the menu as much as the company. She and the players simply connected.
“I have what most people feel is a lofty goal, to win a national championship,” said Rigby, who moved with her husband, Ed, and two children from Louisiana to Hillsboro earlier this month. “But I told them that’s what I wanted to do and laid out what I thought it would take to get it done.
“They looked at me for a long time,” she said. “When they started talking, I was pleased with what they were saying. It was like, ‘We’d be willing to do that if that’s what it takes.’ That’s what sold me.”
For Rigby, the price was high. Her high school team in Loranger, La., was coming off a state championship this spring-their second in three years-and most of her players were coming back.
She fully expected to be with them, but decided to float her resume on the Internet to plant a seed for a college job the following year. Contacted by several colleges, she interviewed for a few, but never felt the situation was right.
She was all but settled in again at Loranger when she got a call from Don Brubacher, Tabor’s athletic director.
“I had never heard of Mennonites, never even thought about Kansas, but I felt a connection with him because he was real sincere and sounded very committed to building a strong women’s program here,” Rigby said.
She decided to visit the campus. She liked what she saw and heard… then went out for pizza.
“I think I have a pretty good vision for what it takes to win,” she said. “A lot goes along with that, especially being blessed, and I have been in the past. But the main thing is, you’ve got to find the right chemistry with the girls and they have to have the same purpose the coach does. I felt that immediately.”
Rigby is a fount of optimism and enthusiasm, but she knows her work is cut out for her. The Jays, hampered by injuries and playing mostly freshmen and sophomores, finished last in the conference last season. But having observed some of her Bluejays in scrimmages and talked with others on the phone, Rigby likes what she sees.
“The girls here, at least the ones that I’ve talked to, they just need to know that they’re good and that they can do it,” she said. “If I can find a way to capitalize on the experience that’s returning, because they were all kind of thrown in the fire and played a lot last year, and combine it with the talent level we’ve got coming in, we’ll do well.”
Rigby praised assistant coach Sylvia Bribiesca for the players she signed during the three months between head coaches. Since committing to Tabor, Rigby has recruited three more, including Meghan Coe, a strong 6-1 freshman post player from Ohio.
Rigby is looking forward to the recruiting process.
“That’s one of the main reasons I’ve wanted to be a college coach,” she said. “In high school, you get whomever walks through he door. That’s fine, but I think one of my strong points will be recruiting.
“I like selling the points of the school,” she added. “Tabor is such an easy thing to sell. If you want to get a good education, be around good people, and win in basketball, then come here. This is where you need to be.”
Rigby grew up in southeastern Louisiana. She played her college ball at Louisiana College, an NAIA school in Pineville, then finished her English degree at Southeastern Louisiana University.
She was an assistant basketball coach for a year in a town near the university. She met and married Ed there, then got her first head job in a high school in Mississippi.
After turning that program around, she took the job in Loranger. She was named Louisiana high school “Coach of the Year” in 1996 and 2000.
In addition to coaching, she will be a grant writer for Tabor. Her husband, a successful high school football coach, will be an assistant coach for the Bluejays’ football team.