BYU director of basketball operations Jeff Judkins is the new head coach of the Cougar women's basketball team after considering a chance to be an assistant with the men's team, while former women's coach Trent Shippen is now the assistant to Judkins for the women's program.
"It's an opportunity for me to have my own job and to call my own shots," said Judkins, who was at Lake Powell working on a houseboat this morning.
What started the Cougar coaching changes, which BYU announced this morning, was the departure of BYU men's assistant Heath Schroyer for an assistant's position at the University of Wyoming.
The name that promptly and prominently surfaced as a replacement for Schroyer was that of Judkins, the former University of Utah star player and assistant coach.
As director of basketball operations at BYU the past two seasons, Judkins worked closely with both the Cougar men's and women's programs. He had served as an assistant to Shippen last season after former assistant Alli Bills left for Utah, her alma mater.
Judkins admitted he was interested in pursuingSchroyer's vacancy — until the Cougar coaching carrousel resulted in Shippen stepping down as head coach, with family concerns cited as the reason. In a whirlwind process over the past week, Judkins and Shippen ended up swapping places on the BYU women's bench.
"It was his call," said Judkins of Shippen, who was out of state today and unavailable to be contacted by the Deseret News. "It's best for him, best of the school and best for the program. . . . We've had a good relationship over the past two years."
Noting that Shippen and his wife have four children under the age of 6, Judkins said he could empathize with Shippen's move as he recalled "the stress and strain and being gone as much on recruiting" during his 10-year tenure as a former Ute assistant.
Said BYU women's athletics director Elaine Michaelis: "It's important for people to understand this is Trent's decision. This is a guy who had his dream job, and he decided to step down for his family. I have a lot of admiration for him."
Shippen called Michaelis Wednesday night to tell her he wanted to resign as head coach, Michaelis said. He also recommended that Judkins take his place. "Trent felt a need to give the team more, and he felt like he didn't have more to give," Michaelis said. "He was very concerned about both his family and the program. There are not many guys in the world that would do what he's done. It's an amazing decision."
Thursday, Michaelis spoke to both Shippen and Judkins, and school administrators decided to hire Judkins as the head coach. The official announcement came this morning.
In the wake of Schoyer's departure, members of the women's basketball squad met with Michaelis and expressed their concern that they might lose Judkins, Michaelis said. "They've been very supportive of Trent," Michaelis said. "They asked if there was any way they could keep Jeff as well."
In a meeting with Judkins, Michaelis explored the possibility of Judkins remaining on the women's staff as a full-time assistant coach. She was pleasantly surprised to learn that Judkins had high level of interest in devoting even more time to the women's program.
Shippen had compiled a 72-49 record in his four years at BYU, with trips to the postseason the past three seasons .
Judkins, who will meet with the BYU women's team when he returns to Provo after the weekend, said, "No way would I have thought two years ago that I'd be a head coach."
And now is the time for him to pursue a job as head coach.
"I'm not getting any younger," he said, adding that a top job will "help my credibility as a coach."
He still anticipates a possible return to coaching men's teams down the road.
Deseret News sports writer Jeff Call contributed to this report.