Longtime Bethany Lutheran College (BLC) professor and head women’s basketball coach Lyle Jones has announced that he is stepping down from both roles after the 2022-23 academic year due to health concerns. Jones has been at Bethany since 1990. He has taught in the Health and Human Performance Department, serving as a past head coach for men’s soccer and women’s softball, and for a combined twenty-one years as the head women’s basketball coach.
Jones explained, “Early in the 2022-23 basketball season my health started to affect both daily activities and my coaching. I pushed through the issues, but I did not feel like myself, and continued to the point where I had to miss a game late in the season.
“At the advice of my physician, I will now focus my time completely on my family and my health. This is not an easy thing for me as I love coaching and mentoring our student-athletes. I am incredibly grateful to God for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had at Bethany and in the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC). It’s been a true blessing to be able to coach so many wonderful student-athletes. I’ll treasure these memories.”
In twenty-one seasons at the helm of the women’s basketball program, competing first in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and then the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Jones’ teams compiled an impressive 381-180 (67% winning percentage) record. His accomplishments include:
- Three Minnesota Community College Conference (MCCC) state championships
- Eight MCCC Southern Division titles
- Two NJCAA Region XIII titles
- MCCC Coach of the Year (1994, 1995)
- NJCAA Regional Coach of the Year (2001, 2002)
- Women’s Basketball Coaches Association District 4 Coach of the Year (1995) where he was one of seven finalists for national coach of the year
- Three Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) tournament championships
- Three UMAC regular season championships
- Two NCAA National Tournament appearances (2019, 2020)
- UMAC Coach of the Year (2019, 2020, 2022)
- Head coach of the 2021 USA Division III Basketball Select Team
Under Jones, Bethany teams were ranked in the national polls and were in the top ten in the nation in offense and defense multiple seasons. He coached 10 NJCAA and KODAK All-Americans.
Bethany’s Co-Athletic Director Pat Garvin said, “I know this is both a gut-wrenching as well as a courageous decision Lyle is making. We will miss his encouraging, Bethany-first outlook on the floor and in the classroom. Lyle has embodied what it means to be a coach and mentor at Bethany.”
Emma Purfeerst (pronounced PURR-fest), associate head coach with Bethany for the past five seasons, will take over women’s basketball head coaching duties. She has helped the Vikings win three UMAC tournament championships, and three UMAC regular season championships.
Jones commented, “I’m so happy that Emma will be leading the program. She’s been a critical piece of the program’s success during the past five years, and I’m confident she’ll be a strong leader for the women.”
Purfeerst is a 2014 alumna of Carleton College and was a four-year starter for the Knights women’s basketball team. She was also a two-year captain and recipient of Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) All First Year Team honors and the MIAC Sportsmanship Award. Prior to her Bethany coaching duties, she served as an assistant for four seasons at Waverly High School in Nebraska where she helped the team to a Class B State Runner-Up finish in 2016.
Purfeerst’s resume includes:
- Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) member
- Participant in the WBCA “So You Want to be a Coach” program
- Two-year participant in the WBCA Coach-to-Coach mentorship program
- WeCOACH member
- Graduate of the NCAA Women Coaches Academy
Purfeerst is also an adjunct instructor at BLC in biology, exercise science, and physical education.
Purfeerst said, “I would like to thank President Gene Pfeifer and Co-Athletic Directors Pat Garvin and Ryan Kragh for selecting me to be the next women’s basketball coach at Bethany Lutheran College. I would also like to thank Lyle for his mentorship over the past five seasons. He allowed me to grow as a coach and has helped to prepare me for this transition. I am very excited to continue to build the women’s basketball program at Bethany.”