For 21 years, Jeff Judkins stalked the sidelines as BYU’s women’s basketball coach.
On Thursday, the school announced Judkins’ retirement, ending an exceptional era in the program’s history.
A national search for the program’s next head coach has begun. Who will athletic director Tom Holmoe hire to take over the program?
There are a number of intriguing and qualified candidates for the job, starting with those already on the staff.
Judkins’ three assistants — Lee Cummard, Ray Stewart and Melanie Day — should each receive serious consideration.
Cummard played at BYU under Dave Rose from 2005-09 and helped lead the Cougars to three consecutive Mountain West Conference championships. He played professionally overseas from 2009-16 in France, Japan and Belgium.
In 2016 Rose hired Cummard as a graduate assistant and he was promoted to assistant coach in 2018. Cummard was hired as an assistant coach on the women’s team in 2019.
During the 2021-22 season, Judkins contracted COVID-19 and Cummard assumed head coaching duties.
The Cougars beat Utah State, No. 17 Florida State, and No. 22 West Virginia during that stretch.
Judkins was happy about the way his assistants performed in his absence.
“I sat there and watched these guys. I wasn’t as nervous before the game as I normally am. It was hard,” Judkins told the Deseret News a few months ago. “I was so proud of my coaching staff and how they handled it. The players responded so well to them.
“That was a good thing for my assistant coaches to get that opportunity. You’d rather do it during an easier schedule, but they did an awesome job and I knew that they would. It was good to see them do so well.”
Stewart has been a BYU assistant for 13 seasons. Since joining the staff in 2011-12, the Cougars have posted eight 20-win seasons and gone to the NCAA Tournament six times.
Day played for Judkins from 2001-02 and helped lead BYU to a trip to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. She’s been an assistant with the Cougars since 2019.
Another potential candidate is Utah Valley University women’s head coach Dan Nielson, a BYU alum.
Nielsen served as a film coordinator, director of operations and an assistant coach under Judkins before taking the UVU job. Nielsen just completed his third season at the helm. The Wolverines made their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2021 and they posted a 16-15 record last season.
There are other former BYU players that could be candidates, including Nancy Seljaas Warner, who is the head coach at Lone Peak High.
Warner, the older sister of former BYU player Zac Seljass, led the Knights to a state championship this season.