After five seasons as head coach of the women’s basketball program, Matt Insell and Ole Miss have mutually decided to part ways.
“I want to thank the people of Mississippi, and the fans of Ole Miss Athletics in particular, for the support through these years. It has been five great years in which I have made lifelong friends and created lasting memories,” Insell said in a letter.
During his time in Oxford, Insell accumulated a 70-87 overall record, with a 18-62 record in the SEC and a 2-5 record in the SEC Tournament. In his final season at the helm, Insell led the Rebels to a 12-19 record, including a 1-15 record in the SEC and an exit to 6-seed Missouri in the second round of the 2017-18 SEC Tournament.
Insell was able to take the Rebels to the WNIT twice, including a trip to the third round in 2015 – a feat only achieved once before. Other highlights included four wins against nationally ranked teams: No. 18 Georgia by three in 2015, No. 13 Kentucky by eight in 2015, No. 9 Kentucky by eight in 2016 and No. 25 Oregon by 16 in 2016.
“I appreciate the players we recruited and coached,” Insell said. “I appreciate the coaches and support staff that put in the countless hours with the program. I want to thank Athletics Director Ross Bjork and former Chancellor Dan Jones for giving me this great opportunity.”
After announcing earlier in the week that Insell’s job status would be reevaluated following the conclusion of the season, Ross Bjork, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics, announced the news of a mutual parting of ways in a press release Friday.
“Coach Insell inherited a very difficult situation in 2013, and we appreciate his focus and hard work over the last five years,” he said. “In our final analysis, coach Insell and I agreed that the program needs new leadership. Coach Insell will be a coach for a long time in the future, and we wish him the best as he moves forward.”
In his five seasons in Oxford, Insell was able to mentor four 1,000-point scorers, four All-SEC members and two SEC All-Freshman Team selections. After five years as an assistant coach at Kentucky, Insell took the Ole Miss position in 2013 during a bad situation: a 9-20 season and a self-imposed postseason ban. Despite not having any prior head coaching experience, Insell was able to enjoy some moments of success amid the drama in the athletics department, though overall, the season was underwhelming.
As a women’s basketball program that has not made the NCAA Tournament since an Elite Eight run in 2007, the Rebels have recently struggled to find success. Despite receiving four WNIT invites, the Rebels have failed to produce winning records in seven of the last 11 seasons.
To make matters worse, this run of less-than-stellar play comes at time when in-state rival Mississippi State is a top program on the national level. After finishing as national runners-up last year, the Bulldogs entered the 2018 postseason with a perfect 30-0 record as the No. 1 team in the nation. Considering the Bulldogs’ dominance over the Rebels in recent years, the next head coach in Oxford will be tasked with revitalizing the Mississippi matchup’s competition.
In a stretch that has consisted of a best conference finish of seventh, Insell and the Rebels have hit a rough patch that has run its course. Now, the program that has 17 NCAA Tournament appearances, 10 Sweet 16s and five Elite Eights to its name will join the men’s basketball program in a search to find its next head coach.
“Ole Miss women’s basketball has a deep history of success, and we will search the nation for the best coach,” Bjork said. “We have a great foundation in place, and I know we can compete at the highest level.”
Insell’s full letter:
“It has been my pleasure to serve as the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at the University of Mississippi for the past five seasons.
I want to thank the people of Mississippi, and the fans of Ole Miss Athletics in particular, for the support through these years. It has been five great years in which I have made lifelong friends and created lasting memories.
I appreciate the players we recruited and coached. I appreciate the coaches and support staff that put in the countless hours with the program. I want to thank Athletics Director Ross Bjork and former Chancellor Dan Jones for giving me this great opportunity.
Many great things happened for me during my time in Oxford and for that I am eternally grateful, but none have been greater than meeting the love of my life and my future wife, Autumn Clark.
The game of basketball has given me so much and I look forward to continuing my journey in this Great Game.