April 18, 2022 

How Allison Guth will lead Loyola Chicago into the Atlantic 10 Conference era

Guth: 'It’s truly where I fell in love with coaching'

Allison Guth’s excitement about her new job at Loyola University Chicago can be felt through her voicemail. She promises not only to give you a call back, but also ends her message with an enthusiastic “Ramble On.” 

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On April 8 Loyola Chicago announced that Allison Guth, who amassed 99 wins in six seasons at Yale (seven years total), would be the program’s 10th head coach. 

Guth began her coaching career as an assistant coach at Loyola Chicago in 2005 before serving as an assistant at Missouri, Yale and Northwestern. She also held the role of director of basketball operations at DePaul before taking the head coaching job at Yale in 2015. 

For director of athletics Steve Watson, Guth brings an “it factor” to the job. 

“I would hope that our program carves a little bit bigger of a niche here and in Chicago,” he told The Next. “Success breeds success. And we’ve had a lot of success in our other programs and it’s not all about winning here at Loyola. But I think Allison’s going to be able to keep us going on a real good trajectory, having success competitively, but then also continuing what we’re doing academically and also getting involved here on campus and in the community.” 

Watson was also impressed by the relationships Guth formed not only with her current and former players but also with college, high school and AAU coaches. “I think she’s got that special something that we feel strongly is going to really help us transition, not just transition into the Atlantic 10 but have success as we make that transition,” he said. 

Guth dove into her new job headfirst. After being formally introduced on April 11, she met with her new-again team the next day to get to know them. 

“It’s never easy for a team to go through a transition like this,” Watson said. “But I think they’re really craving someone like Allison to come in and be their leader. And so it was really cool yesterday to watch them and see the way they were reacting to Allison. And I think they share all of our enthusiasm in welcoming [her] here and [I’m] looking forward to watching what that program’s going to do.”

Guth takes over a Loyola Chicago team that went 18-12 last season, the team’s best winning percentage since at least the 2004-05 season. 

“I honor the blood, sweat and tears of the last staff that they poured into these guys and I want to do my best to take care of these great kids and to continue to push the dial on and raise the bar on what we’re doing here and especially in the challenging A-10,” she told The Next.  

While standing in her office overlooking the Loyola Chicago campus, Guth reflected on her experience, calling it “surreal.” 

“We are a product of the people we surround ourselves with,” she said. “And I’m forever indebted to coach Shannon Reidy, who gave me my first start and took a chance on a young coach and gave me my opportunity to come back here. She was a phenomenal high school coach at Marian Catholic [High School] here in the city and got her opportunity at Loyola Chicago and that’s who opened the door to me … It’s truly where I fell in love with coaching.” 

A significant part of her decision to take the job at Loyola Chicago was the opportunity to continue to pursue her passion and purpose surrounded by her family and friends less than an hour from her hometown. While at Yale she became a mother to two sons who will now be closer to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. 

In the last couple of years, during the pandemic and after becoming moms, Guth and her wife realized the importance of having a support system. “The quality of life really increases when you have some of that time to pour into one another. For me to be able to be there for my parents when they need me, besides how they can support us is a very special opportunity with life being so short,” she said. 

Despite the feeling of “wow” during her first phone call regarding the job, Guth also felt conflicted because Yale was her dream job. She also noted that coming home to Loyola Chicago was another dream come true. 

When deciding whether or not to pursue this opportunity, Guth reached out to James J. Phillips, commissioner of the ACC and Sarah Baumgartner, executive senior associate athletics director of sports administration at Texas. 

Phillips advised her to pray on it. “I think he understands that god places you where he wants and needs you and I felt like this was complete divine timing for this opportunity,” Guth said. 

Baumgartner’s advice was more personal; she understood the fit for the Guth family, as well as the opportunity for Guth to lead Loyola Chicago’s transition to the A-10 Conference, and she told Guth to follow her heart. 

Victoria Chun, director of athletics at Yale, and Ann-Marie Guglieri, deputy director of athletics at Yale, provided unwavering support to Guth throughout the process. “There was just such vulnerability and processing that meant the world to me,” Guth said. 

She looks forward to continuing to impact young women during an important time of their lives. 

“These four years are so special, so special for growth, and I’ve always believed in the holistic development [of student-athletes],” she said. She looks forward to challenging the student-athletes, helping them figure out what they want to do with their life, teaching them lessons through basketball and empowering them as young women, including what they are able to take away from their basketball experience.”

“I’m excited to be part of mentoring them by building relationships with professors and deans and people on campus that can help support their efforts,” she said. “[In addition], encouraging those things and guiding them and mentoring them with internship opportunities and getting connected with our alumni base and those opportunities.”

Over the course of her career, Guth has gone after opportunities that align with her core values of social responsibility, academic integrity and competitive excellence. She noted, “a Loyola education can really have the power to change the world and that’s by serving others and making a more just world.” 

In regard to social responsibility, Guth looks forward to being a part of a school that “pours into people in a way where we think outside of ourselves and how we can make others better and the world better.”

“I can’t wait for us to take the gifts that we’ve been given and find passions, both individually and collectively for this team, to give back to our communities in the ways that I think we really can in this incredible city of Chicago,” Guth said. 

Coming from one of the top academic universities in the country, Guth wanted to come to a place that values academic opportunity. 

When speaking with Watson and Holly Strauss-O’Brien, deputy director of athletics and senior woman administrator, Guth was impressed by how they have transformed the school. 

Guth was drawn to Watson’s passionate and humble leadership style and was motivated by Strauss-O’Brien’s focus on the student-athlete experience centering at the core of everything that is done. For Guth, competitive excellence starts with leadership, but she was also thrilled by the opportunity that awaits the program as it enters the A-10 on July 1. 

Everything about joining the A-10 is exciting to Guth, from new cities for her student-athletes to explore including New York and Washington DC, to an expanded footprint for the school. But there are myriad challenges she knows lie ahead for her program and she is excited and ready to take them all on. 

The most prominent challenge for Guth? Time. 

“There’s only 24 hours in a day and I can only tell you what the last three days have been like,” Guth said on April 12. 

She later added, “The amount of time you need in the day, there’s never enough of it for the amount of things that have to be done and have to be done in order to find the type of success in a conference like this.”

In addition to learning the styles of the new coaches at Dayton and Saint Louis, there will be opportunities for Guth to coach against coaches she admires. 

“You’ve got the success that UMass has had as of late and Tory [Verdi], what he’s done has been just tremendous,” Guth said. “And the successes that that group of young women, and I can only imagine the next groups they have in. And you have Steph[anie] Gaitley at Fordham who’s one of the best coaches ever and somebody I feel like I constantly admire from afar. I feel like I could go down the line [of A-10 coaches].”

While at Yale, Guth had to recruit the best basketball players that would qualify academically and whose financial situation would allow them to play without an athletic scholarship. Due to this, she wasn’t able to recruit to a system and ran three different offensive systems and two defensive systems during her time at Yale. 

Though she will look to have a strong offensive and defensive identity at Loyola Chicago, she believes that her knowledge and ability to teach a variety of systems as she enters the A-10 will benefit the program. 

“I’m grateful for having a couple different systems that I’ve enjoyed and been familiar with and I’m sure that’s going to even grow throughout my years and focusing on our strengths here,” Guth said. 

She will be able to work with her student-athletes over the summer, something she wasn’t able to do at Yale, which she believes will be important for the team’s success in her first season. 

In year one Guth wants to set the foundation for the culture she hopes to have at Loyola Chicago, instead of being focused on wins, she wants to focus on being committed to the process, building relationships and building a staff of leaders and teachers of the game. 

With a growth mindset in place, Guth hopes to see her team get better every day in the first season of competing in the A-10. 

In year two, year three and beyond she wants to build a nationally recognized program and create a culture that brings the right type of players to Loyola Chicago. 

“I very much know the success we had at Yale, the way we built it step by step and by being process-driven, allowed for us from 2015 to the 2019-20 season to go finally break into the top 50 nationally before we got cancelled going to that Ivy tournament,” she said. “So we know it can be done. We know it can be built. And I look forward to finding the right people and the right players that are going to build it.”

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.

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