Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

April 11, 2014

Baker leaving Bluefield College

BLUEFIELD — Bluefield College is looking for a new women’s basketball coach.

Melissa “M.J.” Baker has decided to leave the college, athletics director Peter Dryer confirmed on Friday night.

“It’s unfortunate,” Dryer said by phone. “She did a great job. She’ll be hard to replace.”

Baker did not immediately respond to requests to make a comment.

Dryer said the college is already in the process to fill the vacancy. The position announcement is posted on the Bluefield College website.

“We’re already in the works,” Dryer said. “A quick turnaround is always a good thing at this time of the year, for the sake of the kids (currently in the program) and recruitment ... .”

The Lady Rams were 14-16 last season, 7-11 in the Mid-South Conference. The team was 16-15 in 2012-13, Baker’s second season.

In her first season, 2011-12, the Lady Rams improved from 11 wins the previous year to 22 wins, attaining a top-25 ranking in the NAIA women’s basketball coaches poll for the first time. The team was 13-5 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference that season.

The school then moved into the Mid-South, up a level in NAIA Division I, with a much tougher schedule.

The job announcement states that people applying for the full-time position must have experience in coaching and recruiting at the college level, and must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, with a masters degree preferred.

The applicant “must be in agreement with and committed to Bluefield’s core values and statement of faith,” the posting stated, and must have the “ability to integrate Christian faith into coaching philosophy and daily work.”

Baker’s assistant coach, Jessica Brokaw, said on Friday night that she had not yet decided whether she was going to apply for the position.

Dryer said about Baker, “She’s done a great job with the basketball program. When she came in, the program was just staring to experience a little success, and she’s continued that.

“The quality of play has increased, (as well as) the team camaraderie ... Academically, they have done extremely well. Women’s basketball is one of the highest performing in the classroom among our programs.”

He added that Baker and Brokaw “really put a lot of energy into ... church and service opportunities in the community. Off the court, in the classroom and in the church, she has done a lot, along with Coach Brokaw, to develop the team.”

“She helped the program get to a much higher level,” Dryer said. “We hope to keep that progress going.”

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