On April 27, 2012, long-time assistant coach Misti Cussen was named the 10th head women’s basketball coach in Oral Roberts University history.
Less than a year later, she has already led the Golden Eagles to glory.
Cussen guided the Golden Eagles to the top of the Southland Conference in her first season in charge of the ORU program, as the team won both the regular season and tournament titles in their first campaign as league members.
ORU went 18-13 in Cussen’s first season as head coach, with a 15-5 record against Southland Conference opponents. Under Cussen’s direction, Kevi Luper and Jaci Bigham earned All-Southland honors as seniors, while Luper was named Most Valuable Player at the SLC Tournament.
Cussen’s opening season as head coach ended in Knoxville, Tenn., with a loss to Tennessee in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. ORU led for much of the first half before falling in a respectable effort to the vaunted Lady Vols.
Cussen led the Golden Eagles through a brutal opening stretch in her first season as head coach. After playing a non-conference schedule that one publication ranked as the 13th-toughest in the nation, ORU was just 3-8 heading into the Southland Conference schedule.
But Cussen didn’t let the Golden Eagles fold the tents after their rough start, leading the team to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008. Under Cussen’s watch, the Golden Eagles won eight of their last ten games, including Southland Conference Tournament victories over McNeese State and Sam Houston State.
“I am very grateful to Mr. Carter and Dr. Rutland for this opportunity, and I can’t wait to begin this new chapter as the head coach at ORU,” said Cussen upon her appointment as head coach. “I love this University, and I am thrilled to continue coaching at a place where I have spent so many great years. I am also excited to continue working with such an outstanding group of young women, and I look forward to continued success in the future.”
Cussen spent 16 seasons as the program’s top assistant coach, ranking as one of the nation’s longest-tenured assistant coaches at one school. She also served as the director of operations and the summer camp director.
During Cussen’s tenure as an assistant coach, ORU experienced an unprecedented run of success on the court. The Golden Eagles won five Summit League Tournament titles and a pair of Summit League regular season titles during Cussen’s time as an assistant, and they made the program’s first five trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Cussen also led ORU to three WNIT appearances as an assistant, including a pair of WNIT wins in 2011 over TCU and Tulane that were the program’s first postseason tournament victories in 28 years.
ORU achieved 273 victories during Cussen’s time as an assistant coach, including five 20-win seasons. In 2011-12, the Golden Eagles posted their third consecutive 20-win season, a first for the program in nearly 30 years. As both an assistant and the program’s head coach, Cussen has helped the Golden Eagles to 84 victories since 2009, the program’s best four-year stretch since 1976-80.
Cussen has recruited and coached some of the finest players in ORU history during her time in Tulsa. All-American Kisa Bradley was part of Cussen’s first ORU team, in 1996, while Oklahoma natives Krista Binam and Kevi Luper have also earned All-American status during Cussen’s tenure. Seven Golden Eagles have earned conference player of the year honors under Cussen, including three-time winners Ragan and Luper, and 27 of Cussen’s student-athletes have earned all-conference designations.
During the seventeen season that she has been on the Golden Eagle bench, Cussen has coached 55 conference players of the week, 12 conference all-newcomer team selections, five conference newcomers of the year, two conference defensive players of the year and a pair of Naismith Trophy Watch List nominees.
“Misti Cussen is the right coach for this program,” said ORU Athletic Director Mike Carter. “She has all the attributes we look for in a coach for our women’s basketball team. She is an outstanding recruiter with strong ties in Oklahoma and Texas and has been a vital part of our team for the last 16 years. Misti has demonstrated her ability to lead the program and to build upon the successes that we have enjoyed these past many seasons. We are excited to add Misti to our group of outstanding head coaches at ORU.”
As a player, Cussen began her collegiate career at the University of Kansas (1989-91) before transferring to Southern Nazarene to finish her final two years. Cussen joined the SNU coaching staff in the spring of 1996.
During the summer of 2006, Cussen had the opportunity to serve as a head coach for Athletes in Action, as she took a team of current and former college players on a month-long tour of India. During their stay, the team played in various exhibition contests against local universities, while also volunteering in other humanitarian relief efforts.
Cussen received her Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communication from SNU in 1993 before earning a master of arts in communication education in 1994.
An Oklahoma native, Cussen prepped at El Reno High School where she was an All State selection, named to the Super Five team, and the FCA Female Athlete of the Year. Misti and her husband, Kyle, currently live in Broken Arrow with their two children, Cassie (9) and Caia (5).