In the 1978 NBA draft, Larry Bird was selected as the sixth overall pick by the Boston Celtics.
Most probably don’t remember the Celtics’ second round pick that year.
But BYU remembers. He’s one of our own.
“I was excited,” said BYU women’s basketball head coach Jeff Judkins. “I got drafted on the same team as Larry Bird did and we were friends, so that was nice. The Celtics were a very popular team at that time. I was happy to be drafted by a great franchise.”
Judkins played two seasons with the Celtics before going on to play for the Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons and Portland Trail Blazers.
With a total of five years of NBA experience and over 27 years in coaching, it’s no surprise that Judkins has led BYU to their first regular-season WCC championship.
Judkins, the all-time “winningest” coach in BYU women’s basketball history, is now in his 15th season. “Coach Juddy,” as his team calls him, has had seven consecutive 20-plus win seasons and has won more than 320 total games.
And still counting.
Judkins was an assistant coach for the men’s basketball team at the University of Utah from 1989 to 1999. From Utah, he came to BYU where he was a women’s basketball assistant coach for a season and then took over as the head coach in 2001. He’s been here ever since.
“I had wonderful experiences at Utah. It was the right place for me at the time and now this is the best pace for me,” Judkins said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time at BYU. I’ve got some great friends here, a lot of support.”
During his 15 seasons at BYU, Judkins has led the Cougars to seven NCAA tournament appearances, including a trip to the Sweet 16 2014, and four WNIT tournament appearances. He has also won three conference coach of the year awards.
If the Cougars win the conference tournament it will be Judkins’ fourth conference tournament crown.
Judkins has also coached a total of six All-Americans and five conference Player of the Year winners. Three of his players have gone on to play for the WNBA. Senior Lexi Eaton Rydalch will likely be the fourth.
“I’ve been fortunate to have some really good players and have a good relationship with my players,” Judkins said. “That’s been a blessing.”
Rydalch said Judkins’ success as a coach comes from his stand-out personality and winning program.
“He’s fun and he wants his players to be great and his program to be winning,” Rydalch said. “That’s what I wanted when I came here and I knew he would get that for me.”
Judkins said that his experiences in the NBA and long-time coaching have taught him to be patient and listen to his players.
“I realized that coaching is going to have its ups and downs and you just got to stick with it,” Judkins said. “Don’t look at the good and the bad, look at the positive all the time.”
Judkins’ consistent optimism has inspired his players to work hard and push forward, according to senior Kylie Maeda.
“He’s given me a lot of confidence,” Maeda said. “That’s something he’s really good at, always being positive with us and reminding us what we’re good at and why we’re a part of this team.”
For junior Kalani Purcell, “Juddy’s” coaching applies not only in basketball, but in life as well.
“He’s reinforced hard work,” Purcell said. “Working hard on the court, off the court, with everything.”
Judkins team will enter the WCC tournament as the No. 1 seed after finishing with a 16-2 record in conference play. They’ll face off against the winner of Pacific and Pepperdine on March 4.