Jan. 13, 2014
PORTLAND, Ore. --- University of Portland women's basketball head coach Jim Sollars, who is in his 28th year at the helm of the Pilots, will retire following the 2013-14 season he announced on Monday. Sollars has compiled nearly 400 wins with the Pilots and he has won 560 games overall as a collegiate head coach.
"It's been a wonderful experience and relationship between my family and the University of Portland," Sollars said. "My wife got her masters here, three of my four kids went to school here and we've just been blessed to be a part of the University community.
"My wife always told me that I would know when it was time to move on," noted Sollars, "and I think that the time and effort that this job requires now, especially in regards to recruiting, is probably a little more physical and emotional energy than I'm able to provide. I also wanted to leave with a really good group of kids on the roster and this team is truly a wonderful group."
The Pilots are currently 9-7 and are fresh off a win over then-No. 24 San Diego last Wednesday night, Portland's first win over a ranked opponent in more than ten years.
"Jim has been not only a fine coach – honest and responsible, attentive to his students as young women first and athletes second," said University president Rev. E. William Beauchamp, C.S.C., "but he has been a fine teacher, both of basketball and of hard work toward goals. It's no accident that his players so often go on to remarkable careers as teachers of various sorts themselves. We will miss Jim's humor and work ethic, his wry wit and competitive fire, but most of all I think we will miss a very fine professor here on The Bluff."
"Jim and his family have been great ambassadors for the University of Portland over the last 28 years," Portland Athletic Director Scott Leykam noted. "He has been a great representative of the athletic department and has achieved success in building a winning program.
"He's had a tremendous impact on the lives of so many people, whether it be to student-athletes, co-workers, faculty, or competitors. Jim may be retiring, but his legacy will live on forever here at the Chiles Center."
Sollars, who also served the university as a history professor during his first 11 years on The Bluff, has reached a pair of coaching milestones this season. Portland's victory over Seattle on Nov. 24 was career win No. 400 at the NCAA Division I level for Sollars, and the game at Portland State on Dec. 21 was his 800th career game as head coach of the Pilots.
Sollars ranks second all-time in West Coast Conference wins (166) and he's been named league coach of the year five times. He has won 383 games at UP, 402 victories overall at the NCAA Division I level, and posted a 560-503 career record as a collegiate head coach.
Under Sollars' leadership at Portland, 39 players have earned All-West Coast Conference honors, four players have been named the WCC Player of the Year, and he has coached two Pilots (Laura Sale and Deana Lansing) to honorable mention All-America status. His players have also shown excellence in the classroom as he has guided 40 WCC All-Academic Team selections, 14 CoSIDA Academic All-Region Team picks and one WCC Scholar Athlete of the Year, while two athletes earning first team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors.
Sollars came to UP in 1986 with ten years of previous head coaching experience. He led his 1987-88 team to a 17-11 record, a second-place WCC finish and garnered his first WCC Coach of the Year award. Sollars claimed the school's first WCC Basketball Championship (men or women) in 1991-92 and he was again named the WCC Coach of the Year, making him the first coach in the WCC to win the award twice.
During the 1990's, Sollars had four consecutive NCAA Tournament berths (1993-97), including the first in school history in 1993-94. From 1993-99, Sollars and the Pilots compiled a 125-51 (.710) record, including a 27-3 mark during the 1996-97 season, the program's best since joining the NCAA Division-I ranks.
His 1993-94 team captured the WCC Tournament Championship to earn the school's first NCAA Tournament bid. His 1994-95 team received an NCAA at-large berth and at-large bids followed in 1996 and 1997.
During that 1996-97 season, the team went 27-3 overall for the second-highest win total in program history, won a second-consecutive WCC Championship (the third overall during Sollars' tenure), became the first team in league history to go undefeated (14-0) in WCC play and was the school's first NCAA Division-I basketball team to earn a national ranking (highest rating No. 21 USA Today/No. 25 in the final poll). Sollars was named WBCA District-8 Coach of the Year and was WCC Coach of the Year for a fourth time.
The Pilots have posted four .500 or better seasons during the past six years and have been to the post-season twice during that same span. In 2009-10, the Pilots went 18-13 for the program's most wins in a season in 12 years.
2008-09 was a season of milestones for the Pilots, who were rewarded with their first post-season action in 10 years. After posting its first winning record since the 1998-99 season, Portland was invited to participate in the WNIT. The Pilots, who went 17-14 overall and 10-4 in the WCC, finished second in the conference for its best league finish since 1996-97, while the 10 conference wins were the most for UP since that same season. Portland also defeated every WCC team in 2008-09, which hadn't happened since its undefeated run through the league in 1997.
Prior to UP, Sollars coached at Wenatchee Valley Community College (1976-83) and Portland State University (1983-86). His Wenatchee program won six Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) regional championships and compiled a 154-25 record (.860). Besides building a basketball dynasty, Sollars was also the dean of WVCC's social sciences department for two years and its athletics director for one year.