Bring on the Madness

Placer grads help coach their respective teams to NCAA tourney
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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For big time college basketball coaches Kellie Lewis-Jay and Lisa Mispley Fortier, the term March Madness is an all too accurate description of their lives these days. An NCAA Tournament berth is the ultimate reward for Division I teams. But it also means a crazy week of scouting, road-trip planning, re-routing scouting trips and accommodating the increased media attention. Lewis-Jay is getting used to the drill. She’s a top assistant at Nebraska, which will face former Big 12 Conference rival Kansas in a first round NCAA Tourney game on Sunday. “The night after we got in was a fun night,” said Lewis-Jay, who was an outstanding point guard at Placer High in the 1990s. “We watched lots of film, figured things out for practices, tried to plan for recruiting trips after the tournament. But I can’t complain. This is where we want to be.” While Lewis-Jay’s Huskers are playing in Little Rock, Ark., fellow Placer alum Mispley Fortier will be enjoying the comforts of home. She’s an assistant at Gonzaga, which is the No. 11 seed and will face Rutgers in Spokane, Wash. on Saturday. “It’s awesome,” Mispley Fortier said of the Bulldogs’ opener. Gonzaga made it to the Elite 8 last season, thanks in part to playing four games in Spokane. “Even having two is a huge advantage,” she said. “Our fans are tremendous. The support we get is unparalleled. The building will be sold out and it will be predominantly Gonzaga fans. It’s also nice to sleep in our own beds.” Lewis-Jay’s Huskers won’t have the luxury of homecourt advantage. But they know Kansas well, having faced them several times each season prior to moving to the Big 10 Conference this year. “We were really surprised when they popped up as our opponent,” Lewis-Jay said. “We know them really well and they know us, so it will be a lot of fun to play them.” Nebraska is the No. 6 seed and would face either No. 3 Delaware or No. 14 Arkansas-Little Rock in Tuesday’s second round. Since Lewis-Jay’s arrival in Lincoln in 2007, Nebraska has become a perennial power in the Midwest. The Cornhuskers went 32-2 in 2010 and made it to the Sweet 16. Nebraska is 24-8 this season and finished second at the Big 10 Conference Tournament last week. “We figured we could be anywhere from a 5 to a 7-seed,” Lewis-Jay said. “We played our way out of an 8-9 game by finishing second in the conference tournament so we were extremely happy with that.” Both Lewis-Jay and Mispley Fortier serve as the recruiting coordinators for their respective programs. They’re both heavily involved in game planning and they both specialize in coaching guards. Family is also a priority for both women. Lewis-Jay stays busy with her 8-year-old daughter Kobie, whom she occasionally takes on trips with the team. “She’s grown up around it, so she doesn’t know anything different,” Lewis-Jay said. Mispley Fortier has a 2-year-old son named Marcus. She and her husband Craig Fortier are expecting their second child in April. “Marcus travels with us a lot on the road wherever family can go,” Mispley Fortier said. “There’s another little guy about his age that travels with us and they’re like our little mascots. It’s tough to schedule things. It adds another wrinkle to an already busy lifestyle.” Craig Fortier is an assistant coach at Eastern Washington. This spring, Lisa and the Bulldogs have bragging rights as Craig’s Eagles missed out on an NCAA berth. “They’re full-fledged Zags fans now,” Lisa joked.