Women’s basketball coach faces uphill climb

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For J.D. Gustin, head coach of the Dixie State University women’s basketball team, being a coach is just one of many facets in his life. 

Going back to the third grade, Gustin can recall his first memories of playing basketball as he attended basketball camp in his hometown of Shepherd, Montana. To him, basketball was more than just a sport. It provided him the opportunity to be a part of something that was bigger than himself. He enjoyed the idea of playing on a team and the need for teamwork. 

As the newly hired women’s basketball coach, Gustin knows and recognizes the need to win. At the same time, Gustin acknowledges that it is his job to help prepare his players to find success in the real world once college is done. 

“[We want] to lay down the foundation for the type of culture that we want to have here [and] to help our student athletes understand that academics come first,” Gustin said. 

By choosing to come and coach at DSU, Gustin had entered a situation and program that has been heavily involved in a discrimination lawsuit against a previous head coach. The lawsuit was settled last season as former players were given $50,000 each after filing a complaint for being targeted for their supposed sexual orientation, race and religious views.  

Gustin comes into this position with over 20 years of coaching experience and time spent playing basketball himself for the University of Montana Western. He held the position of head coach at Westminster College and numerous positions as an assistant coach at other schools like the University of Utah and Weber State University. While in these positions, Gustin said he has “gained tons of experience.” 

After an awful three-win season to begin his time at WC, Gustin said he was able to rebuild the program through a lot of hard work. He took the Griffins to nationals in five consecutive seasons. During his tenure at WSU, he helped lead the Wildcats to a school record in wins by going 23-12 for the season.

DSU and St. George was a place he had previously considered coming to. His wife, Trish Gustin, was a former basketball player at DSU as well as having other family members attend school here. 

For J.D. Gustin, the St. George area presented a wonderful place for him and his wife to raise their three children. Of all the facets that exist in his life, with a smile, J.D. Gustin said his family is the most important.

“He’s really family oriented,” said junior center Ashlee Burge, a business administration major from Riverton. “I think that’s really cool he wants us all be a part of his family, and he incorporates that a lot into practice.” 

After a 0-7 start, J.D. Gustin described his team to be fragile with very little confidence. When a team is not overly talented, it becomes difficult to play competitive basketball, J.D. Gustin said.   

Yet, J.D. Gustin said he still believes his team has a chance to win some games and play at a competitive level in a good conference. While still in the process of creating a positive culture for his team amidst the after effects of the lawsuit, he believes it starts with making sure the foundation is laid and that his players respect each other and seek team unity 

“Emotionally, he’s there for us and understands [the] adversity we have been going through,” said freshman point guard Jaden Gonzalez, a pre-physical therapy assistant major from Plainview, Texas.

Even though the start to the season has had a shaky beginning with seven losses, J.D. Gustin said the wins will come but may take some time. J.D Gustin wants much more than to win a few games. He wants to be able to compete for conference championships and recruit the top players in the state. 

“This is a team effort with our administration [and athletic department],” Gustin said. “I feel like right now we have a lot of support from all those people.”