Lynn Kennedy led a program turnaround for the Portland State women’s basketball team in just four years on the Park Blocks. Kennedy turned a four-win team during his first season at Portland State (2015-16) into Big Sky tournament championship four years later.
The Vikings won only their second Big Sky tournament title during the 2018-19 season, and advanced to the NCAA tournament for only the second time in program history. Kennedy and the 2018-19 Vikings also made history while going 25-8 overall, the most wins in a season during the program’s Big Sky era. The Vikings also tied Big Sky era records for home wins (14) and Big Sky wins (14), and set a new Big Sky era record for road winning percentage (.615).
Ashley Bolston led the Vikings to the Big Sky tournament title, as she was named the tournament MVP after averaging 14.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in the Vikings’ three wins at the tournament. Bolston was also named to the All-Big Sky second team after a regular season in which she became just the second Big Sky athlete to record two triple-doubles in a season between her performances against UC Davis (21 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) and the University of Portland (19 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists and nine steals).
Bolston also moved into the career top 10 for scoring during the 2018-19 season, along with fellow senior Sidney Rielly. Rielly finished fourth (1,501 points) on the all-time scoring list after becoming just the fourth PSU player to score over 1,500 points her career, while Bolston finished ninth with 1,334 career points. Rielly led the Vikings with 14.0 points per game during the season, and was named to the All-Big Sky first team following the regular season. Rielly was the first Viking to be named to the All-Big Sky first team since Eryn Jones made the first team following the 2010-11 season.
Courtney West became only the second Viking to be named the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, after leading the Big Sky in blocks for the third straight season. West broke her own single-game record with nine blocks against Southern Utah on Jan. 17, and finished the season with 85 blocks, second to only her 94 blocks as a redshirt sophomore in 2016-17.
Desirae Hansen also became just the second Viking to earn Top Reserve honors from the Big Sky as she shared the honor with Eastern Washington’s Uriah Howard. Hansen earned the honor after averaging 8.3 points per game in Big Sky play, and went on to hit the game-winning shot in the Vikings’ 61-59 win over Eastern Washington in the championship game of the Big Sky tournament.
Kylie Jimenez was named an All-Big Sky honorable mention after leading the Big Sky with 2.6 steals per game while also ranking second in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3) and third in assists per game (4.7). Jimenez was also named to the All-Big Sky tournament team, after she scored a game-high 22 points in the Vikings’ 75-59 upset win of top-seeded Idaho in the semifinals of the Big Sky tournament.
Jimenez and Bolston each ranked in the top five of the Big Sky in terms of assists per game, while the Vikings led the Big Sky and ranked 13th in the nation with 17.2 assists per game as a team. The Vikings finished with 569 total assists during the season, the most assists by a Viking team during the program’s Big Sky era. The Vikings also set a Big Sky era program record with 1,289 rebounds during the season.
The assist and rebound records came as part of a season-long statistical dominance for the Vikings during the 2018-19 season. The Vikings led the Big Sky in eight different statistical categories, and ranked second in the conference in five more. The Vikings led the Big Sky in scoring margin (+10.4), field goal percentage defense (.356), free throw percentage (.790), defensive rebounds per game (28.1), assists per game (17.2), turnover margin (+1.39), steals per game (9.8) and blocks per game (5.3).
The Vikings’ .790 free throw percentage in 2018-19 also ranked them fourth nationally in the category. The Vikings also ranked in the top 25 of the nation for assists per game (13th, 17.2), field goal percentage defense (13th, .356) and blocks per game (15th, 5.3).
Additionally, the Vikings earned national recognition for their standout 2018-19 season, as they twice were ranked eighth in the espnW Mid-Major Poll, and made two appearances in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. The Vikings had never appeared in either poll before the season.
The Big Sky tournament title in 2018-19 came after back-to-back semifinal appearances the previous two seasons.The Vikings won two games at the Big Sky tournament in making the semifinals in 2016-17 and 2017-18, the first time the Vikings had ever won multiple games at the tournament in back-to-back years.
Kennedy led the Vikings to the biggest single-year turnaround in program history with a 12-win improvement from his first season as head coach in 2015-16 to his second year in 2016-17. The Vikings’ 12-win improvement tied the Vikings for the sixth-best turnaround in the NCAA that season. Additionally, the Vikings boasted the biggest improvement in team field goal percentage during the 2016-17 season, shooting a Big Sky-leading .450 from the field a year after they shot .358 from the field in 2015-16. The Vikings’ .450 field goal percentage was the best percentage ever by the Vikings since joining the Big Sky before the 1996-97 season.
The Vikings improved by another three wins in 2017-18, as they went 19-13 overall. The 19 wins were the most by the Vikings since the team won 20 games in 2010-11, and the fourth-most wins by the Vikings in the Division I history of the program. The Vikings also recorded their most conference wins since 2010-11 while going 11-7 in Big Sky play in 2017-18.
Jimenez was named the Big Sky Freshman of the Year at the end of the 2017-18 season, the first Viking to earn the honor since Kelli Valentine in 2007-08. Jimenez earned the award after leading the Big Sky with a 2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. Jimenez also ranked fourth in the Big Sky with 4.5 assists per game, as well as seventh with 1.8 steals per game.
Bolston and Rielly were also named to the All-Big Sky second and third teams, respectively, for the second straight season in 2017-18. Bolston earned the honor after leading the Vikings with 16.6 points per game, while Rielly became just the third Viking ever to score more than 1,000 points in the first two years of her PSU career. Bolston, who is only 81 points from joining the 1,000-point club herself going into the 2018-19 season, was also named to the 2018 All-Big Sky tournament team for the second straight season.
The 2017-18 season featured other highlights, including only the second win ever for the Vikings over an SEC opponent. The Vikings beat Ole Miss 94-79 on Dec. 19, 2017, more than 12 years after the Vikings recorded their first win over an SEC opponent with a 67-65 win over Arkansas on Nov. 25, 2005. The Vikings also snapped Montana State’s 31-game home winning streak – the second longest in the nation at the time behind UCONN – with a 69-60 win over the Bobcats on Jan. 11, 2018.
The Vikings also had one of their best statistical seasons in recent years in 2017-18. The Vikings led the Big Sky with 15.3 assists per game as a team, and also led the Big Sky with 493 free throws made. The Vikings ranked second in the Big Sky and fifth in the nation with a .786 team free throw percentage – the second highest single-season free throw percentage in program history. The Vikings also ranked 47th in the nation with a .359 three-point field goal percentage – the best mark in the Big Sky era of the program.
Individually, Kiana Brown led the Big Sky and ranked seventh in the Big Sky with an .898 individual free throw percentage in 2017-18. Courtney West also led the Big Sky and ranked in the top 20 of the nation in blocked shots (81) and blocked shots per game (2.5).
West broke the Portland State career record for blocks during the 2017-18 season, and now holds the Portland State records for single-game (8), single-season (94) and career blocks (175) going into the 2018-19 season.
West set the single-season record with 94 blocks in 2016-17, the Vikings’ second year under Kennedy. West led the Big Sky in blocks during the 2016-17 season and ranked 10th in the nation in total blocks (94), as well as 15th in blocks per game (2.85).
The Vikings led the Big Sky as a team with a .450 field goal percentage in 2016-17, the best field goal percentage in the Big Sky era of the program. The Vikings also finished the year ranked 20th in the nation in field goal percentage, and ranked in the top 50 in the nation in defensive rebounds per game (25th, 28.0), blocks (31st, 163), assists per game (34th, 15.8), assists (37th, 523) and blocks per game (37th, 4.9).
Kennedy got to work quickly in his first year on the Park Blocks in 2015-16. He inherited a depleted roster that had a combined four letters of experience at Portland State. The Vikings started at least two freshmen in every game, and started four freshmen (three guards and a forward) in 14 of the team’s 30 games. Despite the inexperience, the Vikings ended a 21-game road losing streak during the season with an 88-80 win over Northern Arizona in Flagstaff on March 2, 2016.
Additionally, the Vikings led the Big Sky Conference in rebounding in Kennedy’s first year with 42.5 per game – the best per-game average in the Division I history of the Vikings’ program. Cici West led the league with 9.5 rebounds per game and set the Portland State single-season rebounding record with 286 rebounds. Pia Jurhar added 7.0 rebounds per game for the Vikings, and combined with West for the best rebounding duo in the conference.
Kennedy has had tremendous success in his first four seasons leading the Vikings. Here are the highlights:
Won Big Sky tournament in fourth season as head coach in 2018-19 (only second Big Sky tournament title in program history)
Kennedy came to Portland State with 14 years of experience as a collegiate head coach and more than 20 years coaching experience overall. In 10 seasons, he led the Southern Oregon women’s basketball program to outstanding success. The Raiders went 27-5 in his final season, ranked in the top 10 in the nation, and reached the NAIA Division II Sweet 16. In all, Kennedy was 208-105 as head coach at Southern Oregon, leading three teams to the NAIA National Tournament.
Kennedy’s Raider program had six 20-win seasons, including each of his last three seasons at the school. Kennedy’s players earned 22 All-Conference honors, four All-American honors, and eight Academic All-American honors.
In 2014-15, Southern Oregon led the Cascade Collegiate Conference in eight statistical categories, including scoring, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and rebounding.
The Southern Oregon Raiders were 4-25 the year before Kennedy took over the women’s basketball program. His first season they won 12 games, followed by 18 in 2006-07, and then a school-record 29-5 mark in 2007-08.
As the head coach at NCAA II New Mexico Highlands from 2002-05, Kennedy took a team that won only four games the season before his arrival and within three seasons led it to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Western Division title.
Kennedy has coaching experience in the Big Sky Conference as well. He was an assistant coach at Eastern Washington (1999-2001) and Idaho State (2001-02). Kennedy was named the interim head coach at Idaho State for the final seven games of that season.
His coaching career began as an assistant at Northwest University in Kirkland, Wash. He was the head coach for one season (1998-99) before moving on to Eastern Washington.
Kennedy, a native of Eugene, Ore., prepped at Cascade High School in Everett, Wash., and then played collegiately at Northwest Christian College and Northwest University.
Lynn and his wife, Amy, have two sons, Graycen and Parker.