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Next in line: Monumental coaching change starts new era in women's basketball


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McGuirk Arena will look significantly different when the 2019-20 Central Michigan women's basketball season tips off in November. 

The stars from the last four years, Reyna Frost and Presley Hudson, are playing professionally in Europe. Their presence on the floor will be missed. Former stars Tinara Moore and Cassie Breen have also moved on.

But there's one more CMU women's basketball mainstay that will not be on the bench next year — Sue.

Longtime coach Sue Guevara officially retired July 12 after a 12-year career in Mount Pleasant, where she compiled a 231-156 record. She is the winningest coach in Chippewa history. 

When Guevara made her decision to call it a career, she went into athletic director Michael Alford's office July 8 — her 65th birthday. 

"I'm giving myself a birthday present and it's called retirement. I need your blessing," Guevara told Alford.

"No," Alford joked. "I need another year."

"No, I can't do it," Guevara countered.

What she said next to Alford would eventually set the course of CMU women's basketball history. Guevara knew who she wanted to be her successor. 

She recommended one of her assistants and former players at Michigan — Heather Oesterle. 

"The other thing I need is for you to give Heather a hard, hard look," Guevara said to Alford. "She has earned this position. She has been by my side for nine years and helped me build my vision for this program."

Oesterle took on the role of head coach even before she knew she would do so officially, Guevara said. Guevara took a trip to Ireland with alumni and had rotator cuff surgery all within a short timeframe, so Oesterle had been running workouts and other gym sessions in Guevara's place. 

The transition, which Oesterle thinks will be smooth, was the plan all along when she interviewed with "Coach G" nine years ago.

"(Guevara) told me she was looking for someone to mentor and take over the program someday," Oesterle said. "I knew that this day would happen at some point, but I didn't know when. 

"There's no place I'd rather be and the mentoring (Guevara) has given me has really helped prepare me for this next step."

Associate Head Coach Heather Oesterle holds a ball during the Women's Basketball's practice on Jan. 22 in McGuirk Arena.

As for the Oesterle era in Mount Pleasant, she said the Chippewas' style of play will remain the same, conceptually. 

The offense will still be fast-paced. They still anticipate crashing the boards for rebound opportunities, even despite losing Mid-American Conference career rebound leader Frost. They will still look to churn out a high amount of offense even after losing all-time Chippewa scorer Hudson.  

On the defensive end of the floor, Guevara joked that Oesterle might "not play any defense, the kid (Oesterle) loves offense." Oesterle scored 482 points and doled out 99 assists in 102 games during her four seasons at Michigan. 

Before coming to CMU, Guevara was the head coach at Michigan from 1996-2003 and was an assistant at Michigan State from 1986-95 as a part of her 39-year coaching profession. 

After playing for the Wolverines under Guevara, Oesterle served as an assistant coach at Stanford, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois and CMU before being named associate head coach of the Chippewas in 2012. 

One part of the program that Oesterle has played a major factor in is community outreach. She believes that success on the court begins with taking time for growth away from the game.

Oesterle organizes and runs clinics for young fans around the state over the summer and in McGuirk Arena after Chippewa games throughout the season. What Oesterle wants is for her players to be good people and give back.

"Our team has such great role models that I want to get them in front of as many young girls as possible," Oesterle said. "We go out and run a couple clinics, we've done one in Mount Pleasant, we've done one in Midland. We like to get out and see and touch as many kids as possible because (the team) are such great role models." 

As the 2019-20 school year begins and the women's basketball season draws ever nearer, it will be culminated by saying, "Goodbye, Sue" and, "Welcome, Heather." 

CMU has a new coach at the helm of the program, and Oesterle is ready for the challenge in Mount Pleasant.

"I've been dreaming about this day for a very long time," Oesterle said. "I always tell people, 'Dreams really do come true.'"

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