It’s a Team Effort On and Off the Court for UNK Women’s Basketball Coaches

May 19, 2022, 5 a.m. ·

Female coach talks to her team in front of the bench with a male assistant coach who is her husband behind her.
University of Nebraska at Kearney women's head basketball coach Carrie Eighmey talks with her while assistant coach Devin Eighmey looks on. (Photo courtesy of UNK Athletics)

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Carrie Eighmey has been successful at every level of basketball, as a high school and college player, to now the head coach of the University of Nebraska at Kearney women’s basketball program. This psychology major, though, never planned on a career in coaching.

“I thought, ‘O.K., maybe I’ll do this for a year until I know for sure what I want to do in my career in psychology,” Carrie said. “One year turned into here we are 18 years later.”

The Lopers won 24 games this year – another successful season on the court. Coach Eighmey has had the support of her husband, who’s been right beside her through every win and loss. That’s because Devin Eighmey is not only her husband, but also her assistant coach. The two took jobs at UNK at about the same time – Devin as an assistant on the men’s team and Carrie as the head coach of the women’s team.

Coaches sit on chairs above the UNK arena basketball floor which is behind them.
UNK women's basketball head coach Carrie Eighmey smiles while sitting next to her husband and assistant coach Devin Eighmey. (Image by Christopher Flanery, Nebraska Public Media)

“Devin’s story is a little different than mine,” Carrie said, “but he claims that I was coaching down here and he walked into the gym and saw me coaching and immediately thought, ‘Wow, that might be the person that I marry.’ I maybe took a little bit longer than that to be convinced that that was going to be the case.”

“I just remember thinking, this can go one or two ways,” Devin said. “It can be really awkward at the office, and I’m going to have to probably resign, or it’s going to go well.”

It went well and the two eventually married. Devin moved from the men’s team to become Carrie’s assistant coach with the women’s team.

“I think coaching is coaching, when you’re coaching males or females, and there’s some differences, but coaching is coaching when it comes down to it,” Devin said.

Between coaching and their home life, Carrie and Devin spend a lot of time together. A lot of time.

“Devin and I joke a lot that we’ve spent more time together in our five years of marriage than most married couples have in maybe 20 years. We’ve gotten to know each other really, really well,” Carrie said.

Coach uses a marker to draw a play on a whiteboard while another coach looks on.
Coach Amy Eighmey diagrams a basketball play on a whiteboard as Assistant Coach Devin Eighmey watches. (Image by Christopher Flanery, Nebraska Public Media)

And like any married couple, they have disagreements. Those, though, can turn into life lessons for their players.

“I think when we first started coaching together, we tried to be perfect,” Carrie said. “We tried to act like, or pretend like there was never a disagreement. Then I think after some time we realized that that’s not necessarily what young people need to see anyway. They need to be able to see people in a marriage or in a committed relationship, they can have a disagreement and do it respectfully and still be totally fine.”

The Loper players are watching their coaches closely.

“They’re honest with each other,” Elisa Bakes said. “It’s definitely difficult to have a work life and a home life and they do a great job separating that, but also showing how it can be a really good balance and they really are good examples for us.”

Another player, Haley Simental, said for her, it comes down to respect.

“I think that Coach Devin is a perfect example of how men should respect women. And I think Coach Carrie is another amazing example of how women should respect men,” Haley said.

Two coaches stand at basketball mid-court with players in front of them near one of the baskets.
UNK coaches Amy and Devin Eighmey review practice plans. (Image by Christopher Flanery, Nebraska Public Media)

Respect is something that has grown for all of women’s athletics. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic Title IX legislation designed to make education and athletic opportunities for men and women more equitable. Haley says she’s seen improvements, but there’s more work to do.

“I think there’s still a lot of room to grow and we still uphold men’s sports at a much higher level. And we value it a lot more than girls,” she said. “And that’s just something that I hope we continue to work for, and that I, myself want to be part of that movement toward improving the respect and the valuing of girls basketball and sports in general, and I hope that next generation does that, too.”

Coach Carrie says working towards a better future includes recognizing the importance of the hard work that’s been done in the past, including Title IX.

“I do think it is a result of Title IX and some of those pioneer women like Billy Jean King and Pat Summitt, and people who really had to fight for opportunities, and fight for simple things like gym space and uniforms. I’m grateful because I never had to experience those things,” Carrie said. “I don’t think we’d be where we’re at if we didn’t have Title IX.”

Two coaches and a player on the basketball court look over a sheet of paper.
Coach Carrie Eighmey says she doesn't think women's athletics would be where they are without Title IX legislation. (Image by Christopher Flanery, Nebraska Public Media)

The Lopers’ women’s basketball team – just like women’s athletics in general – has come a long way. Carrie and Devin are looking for even more success. The two work well together – whether it’s as coach and assistant coach, or husband and wife.

“It’s just about serving each other and me serving her, especially as a husband I think that’s ultimately where it starts,” Devin said. “It’s been really, really good, and hopefully we can do it for a long time.”

“It’s similar to what people say about Nebraska. It’s not for everybody. This is probably not for everybody, Carrie added. “It’s not easy because there’s a lot of challenges along with all the benefits, but it’s for us, and it works really, really well for us.”

Watch a video segment of this story below from our Nebraska Stories program on Nebraska Public Media.