Oral Roberts University introduced Misti Cussen as the new head coach of the women’s basketball program April 27, one day after her mentor, Jerry Finkbeiner, left that job for Utah State University.
Cussen, who becomes ORU’s 10th head coach, had served as Finkbeiner’s top assistant for 16 years after playing for Finkbeiner’s squad at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Okla. When Finkbeiner took over the ORU coaching staff in 1996, Cussen was right by his side and became an integral part of building the history and success of the program from the ground up.
Their efforts led ORU to five NCAA Tournament appearances, as well as posting six seasons with 20 or more wins.
Cussen was an important part of convincing young high school basketball stars to continue their play at ORU. She was especially good at finding talent in Oklahoma, helping recruit All-American guard Kevi Luper and guard Jaci Bigham. Both plan to return next fall for their senior seasons after they posted a 20-11 record this year.
In the same week ORU was announcing the coaching changes, Jenni Bryan, a part-time starter at Oklahoma State University, announced she was transferring next fall to ORU. Taylor Cooper, a high school senior from Shawnee, also announced she will be joining the Golden Eagles’ squad next fall.
Cussen’s continued relationship with the returning players she has coached at ORU and the new talent she has been recruiting will go a long way in keeping the team intact.
Cussen was announced as the new ORU head coach at a press conference in the Mabee Center, surrounded by her husband, Ryan, who is the women’s soccer coach at the University of Tulsa, and their two children, Cassie and Cala.
Cussen thanked President Mark Rutland and others for their trust in her to continue to run the program to its full potential.
“Our coaching profession is really a calling,” Cussen said. “It’s just what we feel the Lord has created us to do. And I could not be more thrilled than to be able to continue to do it here at ORU.
“I love this university, what it stands for, that it has given us the opportunity to build into the lives of our student athletes throughout the years.”
Cussen also stated that while it will be surreal to be without her mentor and friend, Finkbeiner, in the upcoming seasons, she is so excited for the opportunities that this change has brought to both of them.
“It’s such a huge opportunity,” Cussen said, “and I am so grateful for it.”
The new head-coaching role will allow Cussen to continue her basketball career near where it all began.
She played high school basketball in El Reno, Okla., just west of Oklahoma City and started her college career at the University of Kansas (1989-91) before transferring to Southern Nazarene University, just west of Oklahoma City.
She received a bachelor's degree from SNU in 1993 and a master's degree from there in 1994.