New Head Coach Jeff Harada promises ‘a new era’ for Cal State Fullerton women’s basketball

In Sports
(Katie Albertson / Daily Titan)

FULLERTON- Cal State Fullerton introduced Jeff Harada as its women’s basketball head coach Monday afternoon at Titan Gym.

“To be named the head women’s basketball coach here at Cal State Fullerton will truly change my life,” Harada said. “I’m very excited to take on this challenge.”

Harada takes over a CSUF program that has been in turmoil in recent years, with several players transferring to play elsewhere or electing to quit the team. He replaces former Head Coach Daron Park who “stepped down” after going 32-89 in his four seasons at the helm.

Harada now has the task of attempting to turn around a program that has not seen a winning record since the 1990-91 season.

“I know the history of the program here. I know the challenges it’s faced the past few years and it’s no secret that this is going to take a lot of work. I want you to know that I am prepared to work,” Harada said. “Twenty-six years without a winning season, I think everyone in this room can agree that’s not acceptable. Please know that we will change the culture and establish a winning environment.”

With more players leaving over the past two seasons than the program has won games, Harada is determined to find the right student-athletes to change the culture at CSUF.

“We’ll recruit high-character student-athletes who will play the game the right way. Students who care about getting A’s and B’s just as much as they care about crushing Long Beach State,” Harada said.

Harada knows he has a lot of work ahead of him but is confident in his process and his ability to turn the program around, he said.

“The biggest thing is just really changing the culture of the program and understanding the work it’s going to take,” Harada said. “Is it going to be hard? Yeah. But I promise you it’ll be rewarding once it’s all said and done.”

Harada said changing the culture at CSUF was the most important part of the rebuilding process, and that if he is able to do so, wins will follow.

“I cannot promise you how many games we’ll win in year one, year two, year three. I can promise you that once the foundation is laid, the wins will come,” Harada said.

While he hasn’t spent time coaching in the Big West Conference, coaching at Navy gave him the opportunity to recruit throughout the nation, which has led him to build contacts throughout Southern California that may prove advantageous.

“I’m very familiar with the teams in this league. I’ve recruited a lot of players that have played in this league. I’m friends and know all the coaches in this league. I know the style of play and I feel like I’m very comfortable and knowledgeable about how to compete and recruit to the Big West,” Harada said.

Harada becomes Fullerton’s 11th head coach in the 48-year history of the program, and brings experience turning around a university’s basketball program after spending the last three years as the head coach at Central Washington University.

In his time at Central Washington, Harada finished with a record of 44-42 and led the team to a winning season in just his second year after the program had not finished above .500 since 2006-07. Harada also led the Wildcats to three consecutive trips to the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Postseason Tournament.

In his first year, Harada nearly doubled the Wildcats win total from the previous season.

“We have an outstanding finalist here today, who stood out above all the others. He has a decade of experience in women’s basketball. He has turned two different programs completely around from not winning, to winning,” said Cal State Fullerton Athletic Director Jim Donovan.

Prior to taking over at Central Washington, Harada was an assistant coach at the United States Naval Academy for three seasons. During his time at Navy, the women’s basketball team made the postseason in all three seasons, including two consecutive years in the NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament.

Harada’s first experience as a head coach was at Hawai’i Pacific University. Harada took over the program after it had won just two games the previous season. He would go on to lead Hawai’i Pacific to 58 wins in his three years there, including a 36-14 record in his final two seasons.

He now changes his focus to rebuilding the CSUF program.

“A new era of Titan women’s basketball is about to begin,” Harada said.

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