April 29, 2024 

Cara Consuegra right at home as Marquette’s head coach

Consuegra brings head coaching experience back to where her coaching career began

Marquette’s newly-minted head coach Cara Consuegra wasn’t going to leave her job at Charlotte for just any coaching opportunity — only for a “special” opportunity. And when Marquette called her, she knew that opportunity had come and she had to take it. Returning to the campus where she developed as an assistant coach for over a decade was too good of an opportunity to pass up. The Golden Eagles were ready to embrace her with open arms.

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“Everybody has been so welcoming,” Consuegra told The Next. “It’s been so incredible to reconnect with people that I’ve already known, and meet a lot of new faces. But regardless, the consistency is the people, the support … just the genuine care to bring somebody back like me to the community. It’s been really incredible.”

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Consuegra stepped off Marquette’s campus in 2011. She was a bright-eyed 32-year old ready to take the reins of a program of her own in Charlotte. Across 13 seasons at the helm, she became the winningest coach in history, leading the program to a 225-169 record. During her tenure she coached 30 all-conference players and seven who went on to professional careers.

Now, with over a decade of head coaching on her resume, Consuegra brings her experience back to where her career began. Under the mentorship of former Marquette head coach Terri Mitchell, Consuegra was an assistant coach for the Golden Eagles from from 2004-11.

“This is really special to me. To stand up here and say that I am your head women’s basketball coach,” Consuegra said at her introductory press conference. “Marquette is not a job to us. I’ve been so fortunate to have been here before. My husband is an alum, his siblings are alums, our family is here.”

“The relationships that I’ve had with my players, my staff, my colleagues. They mean more to me than anything else. They mean more than any trophy we would hoist or any tournament bid. The relationships are why I do this. I build people. Coaching is my dream, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Ultimately for me it is vehicle to help me help young people grow, learn and prepare them for life. That’s what I care about. Preparing young people for what is next and for what they can be.”

Cara Consuegra, wearing a blue blazer over a white blouse, poses next to former Marquette women's basketball head coach Terri Mitchell, wearing a blue vest over a floral button down shirt
The new (left) Marquette women’s basketball coach Cara Consuegra and (right) former Marquette coach Terri Mitchell pose for a photo at an introductory press conference on Thursday April 18, 2024 at the Alumni Memorial Union at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. (Photo Credit | Jovanny Hernandez / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

A reload

Consuegra describes herself as a “builder,” and she steps into a program with an already-solid foundation upon which to build. Marquette went 23-9 last season, advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in eight seasons. The program’s former coach, Megan Duffy — who moved on to a new job opportunity at Virginia Tech — coached the program at an elite level that positions it as a perennial contender in a competitive BIG EAST conference.

“I feel fortunate, obviously walking into this program that’s been really strong — Megan did a great job, Carolyn Kieger did a great job before her. So I don’t really view it — although we have some work to do with the roster, as most people do nowadays, when a coach leaves — it’s not it’s not a rebuilding. It’s just kind of a, you know, tweak — change to me and reload,” Consuegra told The Next. “And so I do feel fortunate about that. I might be different in some ways. I mean, I’m very much a blue collar type in bringing in players that are going to outwork out hustle, play with a lot of grit and toughness.”

Consuegra’s motto is HEART — Heart, Effort, Accountability, Respect and Toughness. These are the traits she’ll seek as she builds out the program in her image.

“When [I] think about what we want our team to look like it’s … a team that plays with a lot of heart and has that toughness and [is] just as fun to come to watch and so whatever … recruits I bring in, the staff I bring in, everybody will really have a part in helping us build that culture.”

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To date, one Conseugra hire has been announced by Marquette Athletics — Deont’a McChester. McChester was part of Consuegra’s coaching staff at Charlotte for one season and follows her to this new opportunity with the Golden Eagles.

“I am really honored that Cara has trusted me to join her at Marquette,” McChester said. “I am a true believer in Cara and her vision she has for Marquette women’s basketball. This is a great opportunity for us to represent the Marquette brand and compete for championships in the BIG EAST Conference.”

Lessons from Lisa Bluder

In November, Cara Consuegra was one of 15,000 fans in attendance for the Ally Tip-Off in Charlotte, NC. Consuegra, who was then in her role as Charlotte’s all-time winningest head coach, watched on as her alma mater No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes defeated No. 8 Virginia Tech, 80-76.

A native of Mount Airy, Maryland, Consuegra played four years of college ball at Iowa. As a senior, she overlapped at Iowa with Lisa Bluder, who was in her first season at the helm of the Hawkeyes. Bluder is Iowa’s all-time winningest coach and the Hawkeyes have reached the national championship game in each of the past two seasons — largely beyond the game-changing, electric play of Caitlin Clark. The fandom surrounding Clark has launched Iowa — and women’s basketball more generally — into the mainstream sports media landscape.

“It’s always incredible to see such tremendous people have that type of success,” Consuegra told The Next. “And I think it’s well deserved because they treat people right, they do the right thing. They’re extremely smart with how they made a program and know how to plan for how they bring in players and all of those things. So I think it’s just great when you see people that are doing things the right way have that level of success.”

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Consuegra politely refutes Bluder’s notion that Iowa wouldn’t have reached these heights of success without Consuegra’s contributions to the foundation of the program. That said, she appreciates the way that Bluder and her staff value everyone who has come through the program. This is an approach that she herself has adopted and takes with her to Marquette.

“The thing [the Iowa coaching staff does] best in my opinion is they make everybody around them feel very valued … That’s the biggest thing I’ve taken with me like how to be able to do this job — which certainly has become so much more of a business — and still keep that that part of it where you’re treating people right and doing the right thing and making people feel important and valued.”

Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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