Paula Buscher was named the fifth head coach for the SIUE women’s basketball team in June 2012.
She inherited a program that went 18-12 overall and finished third in its first season of play in the Ohio Valley Conference. During the 2011-12 season, the Cougars played in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, the University’s first NCAA Division I national postseason event.
Buscher comes to SIUE after spending the last 12 seasons at Bradley University. She won 167 games for the Braves, ranking ninth most in Missouri Valley Conference history. Her 91 career conference victories were also ninth in Missouri Valley history.
Bradley boasted seven first team Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athletes, six CoSIDA Academic All-District selections, four first team All-MVC picks, two MVC Defensive Players of the Year, and one Prairie Farms/MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Year during her time as head coach at Bradley.
The career record holder for victories for Bradley women’s basketball, Buscher rebuilt Bradley’s program that had toiled near the bottom of the league for years. Her 2008-09 squad set the school record for victories with 21.
Her teams advanced to the Women’s Basketball Invitational twice, including last season where the team fell in the second round to eventual champion Minnesota. The Braves’ WBI run included a 20-point come-from-behind victory over Tennessee Tech in the opening game of the tournament at Bradley. It was Bradley’s first postseason contest since the men’s team appeared in the 1982 NIT Championships.
Buscher led the Braves to their first-ever postseason bid during the 2009-10 season, where the Braves downed defending NCAA Tournament runner-up Louisville in the Cardinals’ final game at Freedom Hall. Louisville had entered the game having won nearly 85 percent of its home games at Freedom Hall. Buscher’s Braves would fall in the WBI quarterfinals with a loss to the College of Charleston.
Buscher’s teams have won 71 games over the past four seasons, including a victory over the Cougars at the Vadalabene Center last season.
She holds a career record of 210-226 (.482) that includes brief stints as head coach at Minnesota State-Mankato and Nebraska-Omaha. She was named one of Peoria’s “40 Leaders Under 40” in 2002 and was awarded the Exemplary Service Award from the Bradley Parents Association in 2001.
Buscher earned a bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University in 1986 after playing two seasons of basketball and softball for the Bears. She began her coaching career as a graduate assistant under Hall of Fame Coach Jill Hutchison at Illinois State.
After earning a master’s in physical education with an emphasis in athletic administration from Illinois State, Buscher spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at Nebraska-Omaha (UNO). She left in 1997 to pursue her first head coaching position where she led Minnesota State-Mankato to the second biggest turnaround in NCAA Division II history.
She then spent two seasons back at Nebraska-Omaha as the program’s head coach before joining the Division I head coaching ranks at Bradley.
A native of Peoria, Buscher’s accomplishments as a player include a runner-up finish at the 1980-81 IHSA Class AA State Tournament for Peoria Richwoods High School. She played basketball and softball for Hall of Fame Coach Lorene Ramsey at Illinois Central College. She helped the basketball team to a fifth-place finish during the 1981-82 season and third during the 1982-83 season. During softball season, Buscher helped Illinois Central to the 1982 NJCAA national title and was inducted into the Peoria Sports Hall of Fame in 1987 as a member of that championship team.