After the 2021-22 season, the Saint Louis University Women’s Basketball program was eager for a change in leadership. Chris May, the Director of Athletics at SLU, set out looking for someone who could coach the team to consecutive winning seasons, and lead the Billikens to conference and national championships.
Rebecca Tillett was hired as Head Coach of the Women’s Basketball team in April 2022. Tillet has proven through her past coaching experiences and the recent results of her first season with the Billikens, that she is more than qualified for the position.
Besides her personal coaching experience, it is evident that Tillett has the coaching genes in her family. Her father coached basketball and soccer, and her mother was also a soccer coach. Her siblings also display great leadership in the field, with one brother as a soccer coach, one as a basketball coach and one as a robotics coach. Tillett, however, was the first of her family to earn a coaching position at the collegiate level.
Tillett earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology from The College of William and Mary in 1999. She played as a guard and served as a captain of the women’s basketball team during her senior year. After her time at The College of William and Mary, her success in coaching took off. After spending time coaching a high school in Virginia, Tillett spent three years as a WNBA scout with the Atlanta Dream. From there, her college coaching career began.
Coach Tillett spent the 2013-14 season as Assistant Coach of Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Division II women’s basketball program before taking a position at Navy, where she quickly moved from Recruiting Coordinator to Assistant Coach. In 2018, Tillett was named Head Coach of Longwood University’s women’s team, where she transformed the team within four years and led them to the program’s first ever appearance in the NCAA March Madness Tournament during their 2021-22 season.
When Tillett transitioned to Saint Louis University in Spring 2022, she brought four of her previous seasons’ players with her from Longwood University. These players include senior Kyla McMakin, sophomore Kennedy Calhoun, redshirt freshman Isabel Tillett and junior Briana Johns. With a team consisting of transfers, veteran players and new freshman, Tillett was able to capitalize on the talent of her team to win the Atlantic 10 Championship and earn the first ever bid to the NCAA March Madness Tournament in SLU Women’s Basketball history. By accomplishing this feat, she became the second coach ever to lead two different teams to the NCAA Tournament in two consecutive seasons.
In an early season interview, Tillett explains that her team has a positive and resilient attitude, which later proved to take them far in the postseason. In the days leading up to the Billikens’ NCAA Tournament debut, the coach discussed the growing popularity that women’s basketball is gaining nationwide and how it is beneficial to the sports’ continued evolution. Tillett refers to the positive recognition that women’s basketball has gained in recent years after being asked about the broadcast expansion of early-tournament games at a press conference. “You can hear these stories of these women that strive so hard to be good in the classroom, to be good on the court, to be good in their communities,” said Tillett. “And so each opportunity that we take a step forward with our game draws in new fans and new viewers.”
Both the head coach and the players have expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to play in the tournament and make history for the Billikens. With such success in her early career with Saint Louis, Rebecca Tillet is sure to give fans and players something to look forward to in upcoming seasons.
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