Aaron Roussell has improved Bucknell’s record in each of his four seasons at the helm of the Bison women’s basketball squad, culminating with a school-record 25-win season in 2015-16.
The Bison struggled to a 5-25 season in the year prior to Roussell’s arrival, but in his first four campaigns the team has won 15, 16, 18 and 25 games.
This past season was simply one of the best in the 42-year history of the program. Despite a rash of significant injuries that left the team severely shorthanded for much of the year, the Bison posted a 17-1 Patriot League record, good for a share of the regular-season championship with Army West Point.
Roussell was named Patriot League Coach of the Year at season’s end. Even though his team was upset in the Patriot League Tournament semifinals, the Bison bounced back to defeat Akron 74-70 for the first Women’s National Invitation Tournament victory by any Patriot League team. Bucknell played Michigan to an even game into the fourth quarter before the Wolverines prevailed in the second round.
The turnaround was immediate for Bucknell under Roussell. He lifted the Bison from a five-win outing in 2011-12 to a 15-16 overall record and a 5-9 mark in Patriot League action during his debut season. His 15 wins set a Bucknell women’s basketball record for victories in a coach’s rookie season, and his work with the Bison was recognized nationally, as he was named a finalist for the WBCA Spalding Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year award.
Bucknell's ascent continued in Roussell's second season at the helm, as the Bison finished 16-14 overall, 11-7 in the Patriot League and 10-4 at Sojka Pavilion. Bucknell earned the No. 4 seed for the Patriot League Tournament and hosted a quarterfinal game in Sojka for the first time. The Bison then went on to accept a bid to the Women's Basketball Invitational postseason tournament for the first time.
Bucknell’s improvement mirrored that of the conference as a whole in 2014-15, but the Bison were again able to finish in the top half of the league standings and grabbed the No. 4 seed for the conference tournament for the second consecutive year. The team finished 18-12, the program’s highest win total in eight years, and was above .500 at 10-8 in one of the most competitive seasons from top to bottom in league history.
Much of the Bison’s success during Roussell’s tenure has been a result of his ability to quickly develop talent and meld it with the team’s veteran players. They have won three straight Patriot League Rookie of the Year awards, with Claire DeBoer receiving the honor in 2014, Jacquie Klotz in 2015 and Kaitlyn Slagus in 2016.
At the same time that the freshmen were winning awards, Bucknell’s veteran players were being recognized alongside the best players in the league. Shelby Romine was a First Team All-Patriot League selection in 2014, and Audrey Dotson landed a spot on the First Team in 2015. DeBoer and Klotz were both honored in 2016. In all, the Bison have had seven all-conference players in Roussell’s three seasons, while another five were voted to the All-Rookie squad.
Prior to his time in Lewisburg, Roussell spent eight years as the head coach at the University of Chicago, where he compiled a 161-50 (.763) record, including a 52-5 mark with a 43-game regular-season winning streak over his last two seasons with the program. Roussell logged the most victories and highest winning percentage of any women’s basketball coach in Chicago’s 41-year history, while guiding the Maroons to their only three University Athletic Association outright championships. Two of those came in his final two years in Chicago, both on perfect 14-0 league records. Roussell’s teams also made four NCAA Division III Tournament appearances during his tenure, advancing to the Elite Eight once and to the Sweet Sixteen on three occasions.
In addition to their success on the hardwood, Roussell’s teams at the University of Chicago, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in the nation, also excelled in the classroom. His 2010-11 team combined for a 3.36 grade-point average and, at the culmination of the 2011-12 season, Taylor Simpson was awarded the Jostens Trophy, given to the most outstanding Division III women’s basketball student-athlete and determined by basketball ability, academic success and community service.
Prior to Roussell’s arrival at Chicago in September of 2004, the Maroons had never appeared in the national rankings, but they were listed in the ESPN/WBCA and D3hoops.com top-25 polls in each of the last seven years under his tutelage. The program was ranked No. 1 in the nation in the ESPN/WBCA Coaches’ Poll in 2006-07, and in 2011-12, his last season with the program, the team was ranked No. 2 for most of the campaign. Roussell was named the UAA Coach of the Year in 2008, 2011 and 2012, and he was selected as the WBCA Regional Coach of the Year in 2011 and 2012.
Roussell coached six of the 10 1,000-point scorers in program history while at Chicago, mentored 15 different all-conference performers in eight seasons and had players earn All-America honors in 2005, 2011 and 2012. His teams posted a higher victory total than the previous season in seven of his eight years at the helm of the program.
In addition to his coaching duties, Roussell was an assistant professor at Chicago and taught four credits of activities classes per year. He was also a member of the athletic department’s promotions team and personnel committee, and he served on the university’s Community Service and Student Leadership awards committees.
A 2001 graduate of the University of Iowa, Roussell double-majored in journalism/mass communications and political science. In 2002 he began a two-year stint as a graduate assistant women’s basketball coach at Minnesota State, completing a master’s degree in sports administration while honing his coaching skills.
His first coaching experience came at the high school level, as he served as the boys’ varsity assistant coach and head JV coach at Breck High School in Minneapolis, Minn. for the 2001-02 season.
Roussell and his wife, Molly, have a six-year-old son, Riley, and a two-year old daughter, Kelsey.