After a year in which UCSB women’s basketball Head Coach Carlene Mitchell led her team to a Big West Conference Tournament Championship and an NCAA tournament birth, the first-year coach was named one of three finalists for the Spalding Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Head Coach of the Year Award. The award, presented on Tuesday, was given to Jennifer Hoover of High Point University.

Hoover posted a 20-13 record in her first year, marking only the second time in the program’s Division I history that the team has reached 20 wins. The third nominee was Cara Consuegra from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Consuegra took her team into the postseason for the 10th consecutive season while posting 16 wins including an 8-6 Atlantic 10 record.

The Gauchos finished with a 17-16 record and won nine of their last 12 games en route to the program’s 14th Big West crown. Entering the conference tournament as the sixth seed, Santa Barbara became the first women’s champion in conference history seated lower than fourth.

Coming to UCSB from Rutgers where she coached under the legendary C. Vivian Stringer, Mitchell immediately developed a defensive-minded approach to the Gauchos. Her players responded, as UCSB led the Big West in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and rebounding margin.

The award, presented by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, is given in honor of Maggie Dixon. In her first year at the helm in 2006, Dixon led Army to the Patriot League Title and its first ever birth at the NCAA Tournament at the Division I level. Consequently, she was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year before passing away later that year.