Dana Haggenjos regards No. 33 as her “lucky number.”
It’s easy to understand why.
Larry Bird wore it as a player, and she did, too. She wore it during four standout seasons on the DePauw University women’s basketball team.
Moreover, she turned 33 this year — a year that, to date, has included her wedding and, most recently, the fulfillment of a long-time career ambition.
After serving 10 seasons as an assistant coach at DePauw, Haggenjos landed her first head coaching position in May when she was hired as the new women’s basketball coach at Franklin College.
In total, 33 has added up to a run of good fortune — a run that has also kept her quite busy.
A Mooresville native with close personal ties to the area, she has spent the past several weeks familiarizing herself with players and the community, assembling a staff, hitting the recruiting trail and finishing the process of buying a new home in Johnson County.
“Just crazy times,” said Haggenjos, who, despite her hectic schedule, has no complaints about the opportunity.
Having filled an assistant’s role for a decade, she has not only aspired for a college head coaching job but longed for one near her hometown.
Franklin College was the perfect location.
“I knew I didn’t want to really stay at DePauw because I wanted to branch out on my own, and Franklin was that opportunity,” Haggenjos said. “It had everything I was looking for in a school, from the size of the school to the location, and the community-feel.
“I’m really excited to be here. I’ve already been welcomed with open arms from the community, so that’s been exciting.”
A former player at Mooresville High School and DePauw, Haggenjos spent 10 seasons prepping for the Franklin opportunity under the leadership of Tigers’ head coach Kris Huffman, one the nation’s top NCAA Division III coaches.
Huffman has led DePauw to two national championships, the most recent being in 2012-13, when the Tigers became the first women’s team in Division III history go undefeated. Haggenjos was a top assistant on that team, which finished 34-0.
Prior to coaching for Huffman, Haggenjos played for her, too. A four-year letterwinner (1999-2003), she concluded her career among the Tigers’ career leaders in points, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, rebounding and steals.
“I’ve had an exceptional leader and a great friend in Kris Huffman,” Haggenjos said. “She set the bar really high. She’s been a great mentor to me, and it’s kind of nerve-racking to not have her beside me because I just love working with her. But at the same time, it’s exciting to kind of be on my own, and I can’t think of a better place to be than here, where I have all that (family) support near me.”
At Franklin, Haggenjos — who takes over for Jennifer Temple, who resigned after two years — inherits a tradition-rich program that is coming off a 14-13 season. The Grizzlies have made seven Division III national tournament appearances, the most recent being in 2011-12; have won nine regular-season Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference championships; and won four HCAC tournament title.
Prior to last year’s 14-13 campaign, they had back-to-back 20-plus seasons.
Haggenjos looks forward to building on Franklin’s tradition. The process is beginning in earnest as she fills vacancies on the coaching staff (two of last season’s assistants recently received head coaching jobs) and recruiting about to go full-bore.
Moreover, the Grizzlies anticipate the return of four starters, seniors Nichole Thompson and Lindsey Dall and sophomores Lauren DeSutter and Mandy Fisher.
“It all starts with relationships. I’ve met the girls a couple of times, and they seem like a great, close-knit group,” she said. “That’s what I was used to working with at DePauw. And honestly, you can be a mediocre team, but if you have great chemistry, you can do great things. I can’t say that at DePauw we were the most talented team, if you just looked at us athletically from top to bottom, but our team played together, and I guess that’s what I’m looking for.
“I’m super-excited because I know I have a great group coming in. As a first-year coach, it’s going to be an interesting transition, but I’m really excited for the challenges. I’m sure we’ll have a couple of bumps and bruises along the way, but I look forward to what the future holds.”