Original article (Schaefer Names Coaching Staff for Women’s Basketball) on the University of Texas’ athletic website texassports.com.
Texas Women’s Basketball head coach Vic Schaefer welcomes a championship-caliber staff with a combined 46 years of collegiate coaching experience to the Forty Acres, he announced on Friday.
Johnnie Harris and Dionnah Jackson-Durrett have been named associate head coaches, while Elena Lovato has been named assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. Harris, Jackson-Durrett and Lovato each served in similar roles under Schaefer at Mississippi State.
“The first thing that comes to mind is that this is the A-Team,” Schaefer said. “They’re the best in the business. We’re family. We’ve done so much together and had so much success together. They’re not only great coaches, but great role models and mentors for our young players. They’re not only going to represent The University of Texas in the best way possible, but they’re going to be great in our community. For me, as I’ve always said, I’m smart enough to know that I can’t do it by myself. This is a tremendous staff and we’re very lucky to have them all here.”
Lovato served four seasons on Schaefer’s staff in two different stints. She helped recruit some of the top classes in Mississippi State history that went on to earn four consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, including back-to-back national title game appearances, and collected the program’s first SEC Championship.
Most recently, she helped the Bulldogs ink the top signing class in program history, which was ranked No. 6 nationally by espnW Hoop Gurlz. Rickea Jackson, the fifth-ranked player in the country and Mississippi State’s first McDonald’s All-American, highlighted the group.
Between her two stints in Starkville, Lovato spent two years as the head coach at Arkansas-Fort Smith. At UAFS, she led the Lady Lions to a 37-24 overall record, including a 20-10 mark in the Heartland Conference. Her 2017-18 squad reached the 20-win mark and earned a spot in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
In Lovato’s first two seasons as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Mississippi State, the Bulldogs posted a 55-15 overall record and a 22-10 mark in the SEC. She helped Mississippi State to back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths, including the program’s first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance since 2010.
Prior to joining Mississippi State, Lovato was one of the top junior college coaches in the country, recording a 113-8 [.934] record in four seasons at the level. She spent the 2012-13 and 2013-14 campaigns at the helm of Trinity Valley Community College, where her teams posted a 72-2 mark and won the NJCAA National Championship in each of those seasons.
Lovato was named the NJCAA Division I Coach of the Year after her 2013-14 squad went 36-1 and claimed a second consecutive national title. The previous year’s team also went 36-1 en route to the national championship. Lovato mentored six NJCAA All-Americans at TVCC, including the 2014 WBCA Player of the Year Adut Bulgak.
Lovato served one season as an assistant coach at Omaha, an NCAA Division II program that was making the transition to Division I, and another as head coach at Grayson College in Denton, Texas.
At Grayson, Lovato took a program that finished 4-26 the previous year and led it to a 32-4 record, the NJCAA Region V Championship and a fifth-place national finish. She earned Coach of the Year accolades from the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches, the North Texas College Athletic Conference and NJCAA Region V.
A year earlier, Lovato was an assistant coach at Trinity Valley Community College before being promoted to interim head coach for the final 11 games of the season. She led the Lady Cardinals to a 9-2 record and a sixth-place finish at the national tournament during that time.
Lovato was an assistant on Joe Curl’s Houston staff in 2008-09 and, before that, was a graduate assistant at Pittsburg State in Kansas. The Albuquerque, N.M., native also coached at the high school level following a stellar playing career.
Before embarking on her coaching career, Lovato played two seasons at West Texas A&M before transferring to Missouri Southern State, where she was named a team captain and MIAA Newcomer of the Year.
She went on to play professionally in the Puerto Rican Women’s Basketball League, earning First-Team All-League Honors after averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds in 2001. The following season, she averaged 18 points and eight rebounds. In 2002, she also played for the Chicago Blaze of the National Women’s Basketball League [NWBL].
Lovato earned her bachelor’s degree in university studies from Missouri Southern State in 2005 and her master’s degree in physical education from Pittsburg State in 2008.