Eileen Kleinfelter returns for her fifth season in charge of the women’s basketball fortunes at Central Michigan University.
A veteran of 14 years as a head coach, Kleinfelter and her staff have worked hard to rebuild the tradition of Chippewa basketball. CMU made strides in her first four years and hopes to see the fruits of its labor this season.
One of the areas Kleinfelter worked hardest on during the rebuilding period was recruiting. The Chippewas have seen a dramatic improvement the last four years in this area, and for the first time during her tenure, Kleinfelter has a squad composed entirely of players she recruited.
Since coming to CMU Kleinfelter has patiently worked with young players to develop them for the future and all that hard work is coming to fruition this season. For the first time during her time at CMU Kleinfelter has a deep senior class to rely on for leadership. The six seniors this season is the most in CMU women’s basketball history. The past four years CMU has had only seven seniors grace the roster including just one, Lindy Hatfield, last season.
Kleinfelter returns four starters and nine letterwinners from a squad that led CMU to its best finish in the Mid-American Conference since 1999 as the Chippewas entered the conference tournament as the No. 10 seed. CMU boasted a 10-18 overall record while finishing 4-12 in the MAC.
CMU’s dramatic improvement last season also is evident in its shooting percentages as the Chippewas were the only MAC team to rank in the top four in field-goal, three-point and free-throw percentages. CMU also ranked second in rebounding margin and defensive rebounds.
Kleinfelter became CMU’s eighth head coach on April 10, 2001. In her first season on the Chippewa bench, Kleinfelter guided Vershaun Jones to honorable mention All-MAC honors in 2001-02. Jones led the MAC in rebounding, grabbing 10.4 boards per game and was 17th in the country in rebounding. She also topped the conference in double-doubles.
Kleinfelter’s recruiting ability showed immediate rewards when Erin Kuhl landed on the 2002-03 MAC All-Freshman team. Kuhl led all freshmen in the conference with her 48 threes and had a .421 three-point percentage. She also led the team in assists and steals.
Kleinfelter enters her 15th season as a college head coach and boasts a 258-157 (.623) career record.
For seven seasons prior to coming to CMU, Kleinfelter was the head coach at her alma mater, the University of Findlay. The Oiler program enjoyed winning seasons in each of Kleinfelter’s seven years at Findlay. She led the Oilers to six 20-win seasons including a school-best 32-2 mark in 1994-95, her first season at UF.
She coached the Oilers to five postseason appearances in the 1990s–two Final Four showings and three straight Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) South Division titles in 1998, ’99, and 2000.
Findlay’s 17-2 mark in the GLIAC and 27-4 overall record in 1999-00 earned Kleinfelter GLIAC “Coach of the Year” accolades. Her 1999-00 team finished the season second in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association academic top 25 with a 3.683 grade point average.
Kleinfelter coached 13 players to All-America status at Findlay. She had three earn NAIA first team All-America accolades, two garner Kodak All-America first team honors, and 10 won NAIA All-America Scholar-Athlete honors.
She left with a 172-46 (.789) record at Findlay. She was inducted into the Findlay Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.
Prior to Findlay, Kleinfelter was the mentor for the IPFW women’s basketball program. She went 50-35 in her three seasons at the NCAA Division II program. She guided IPFW to a 22-7 mark in her first year as head coach, and its 14-4 record in the Great Lakes Valley Conference was the best conference finish in the school’s history, which was good for second in the GLVC that year. Her 22 wins also tied the school record for most wins in a season and earned her team a trip to the NCAA Tournament as well.
Prior to IPFW, she was the assistant coach at Tennessee State University from 1990-91 and was an assistant at Vanderbilt from 1988-90. Vandy went 44-19 during her two seasons there, went to the NCAA Tournament both years, and even appeared in the NCAA “Sweet 16.”
Kleinfelter spent the 1985-88 seasons coaching at Indiana and in 1985-86 saw the team invited to the postseason National Invitational Tournament (NIT) after a 17-11 season. Before Indiana, she spent one season as an assistant at Arizona State.
She began her coaching career as a graduate assistant at Penn State University. Penn State went to the NCAA Tournament twice during her stay in Happy Valley and advanced to the regional finals in 1983-84.
The Bascom, Ohio, native played basketball at Findlay from 1975-78, and Kleinfelter received her bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Findlay in 1979. She earned her master’s degree from Penn State in physical education with an emphasis in athletic administration in 1984.
Kleinfelter is a member of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, and the Michigan High School Coaches Association.
She resides in Mount Pleasant and enjoys jogging, biking, and cross country skiing. Kleinfelter comes from a close-knit family of three brothers, three sisters, and 20 nieces and nephews.