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New women's tennis coach Mary Beth Gunn brings winning background to Southeast
Mary Beth Gunn was hired as the new Southeast Missouri State women's tennis coach on Nov. 9.
Gunn signed a one-year deal that is the basic contract Southeast gives to most first-year coaches. The coach is eventually evaluated by the student-athletes' experience.
Gunn is taking over for Leah Killen, who resigned as the team's coach on Oct. 5 after Southeast had finished fall tournament play.
Southeast went 11-33 overall and 5-15 in Ohio Valley Conference play over the past two seasons with Killen as its head coach.
Killen was hired over Gunn in 2013 when both interviewed for the opening.
According to senior associate director of athletics/senior woman administrator Cindy Gannon, the reason Killen was hired instead of Gunn was because of the difference of coaching experience between both candidates.
"Mary Beth was on my radar the last time we went through the search process, and we actually interviewed her the last time," Gannon said. "She didn't have the experience that the other candidate had that we hired. She only had graduate assistant experience and the other candidate that we hired was actually an assistant coach."
Gunn coached at UT Martin as a graduate assistant from 2010 to 2011 and as an assistant coach from 2012 to 2013. Her career at UT Martin started in 2005 when she was a member of the team and helped her team win back-to-back regular season OVC Championships.
She helped lead UT Martin to winning a share of the regular season OVC Championship as a coach in 2011.
After the 2013 season, Gunn was hired as the assistant for the men's and women's tennis teams at Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina.
The women's team won a Conference Carolina Championship in the 2014-15 season and after that year, Gunn was named as the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Coach of the Year.
"I've been keeping track of her, and whenever I noticed that she received the Assistant Coach of the Year, I knew I saw something special in her when we interviewed her the first time," Gannon said. "But it was exciting to know that she had gone on, gotten a job, gotten the experience and everything kind of came full circle in that she ended up here in the second search."
After one season at Limestone College, Gunn was hired as the head coach at Western Illinois where she spent four months before hearing about the opening at Southeast.
"... So when I saw it come open again I was just like, 'I have to go for it,'" Gunn said. "It wasn't ideal because I had just taken a head coaching position somewhere else three months ago, but I had enjoyed my visit last time so much that I was really interested in the position, so I thought I'd go through it again."
Gannon said she has kept Gunn on her radar ever since she interviewed for the head coaching position three years ago because she was intrigued by her experience in the OVC.
"I knew that she would have a good understanding of what it takes to be successful in the Ohio Valley Conference," Gannon said. "She did an outstanding job when she interviewed last time, but as the committee went through the process, there's a certain level of experience, so we hired the former coach."
Gunn said she feels more prepared for the position now than she did three years ago because she got to see how other coaches do things differently in other programs like Limestone College.
When the job became available and Gannon and interim athletic director Brady Barke started the search for a new coach, Gannon called UT Martin's senior woman administrator Danielle Fabianich to see where Gunn was coaching.
"They had indicated she had taken a job and so I really didn't want to pursue anything because I don't want to get in the habit of stealing employees away," Gannon said. "You kind of have a respect for your other institutions and knowing that you don't want to -- there's certain times of the year where you can actively recruit people away, and the timing of this one, certainly someone wouldn't appreciate me calling and recruiting someone away."
Gannon added that she thinks Fabianich got in contact with Gunn about the opening since Gunn approached Gannon about the position. Gannon said Gunn was excited about the position being open and she encouraged her to apply.
The team has not won an OVC Championship of any kind in the program's history, and the closest it's gotten was in 1993 when Southeast finished third in conference standings.
Gunn said it takes a while to build a program, but a positive thing for her as the team's coach is that no player from this year's team is graduating yet.
"So anything we're doing this year is also something that's working towards the next year as well," Gunn said. "My vision for the program is to be a top team in the OVC, to win an OVC Championship. Really, my goal would be to have every player on the team experience that at least once when they're on the team. There's no better feeling. I'm fortunate that I got to experience that as a player and as a coach already, but that's something I want my players to experience as well."