Gulf Coast hires Cayla Petree as women's basketball coach

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Gulf Coast women's basketball program has a new head coach.

Cayla Petree hired as new Gulf Coast women's basketball coach

The college announced the hiring of Cayla Petree on Wednesday to replace retiring coach and assistant athletic director Roonie Scovel following two decades and six national championships.

Petree comes from South Plains Junior College in Levelland, where she compiled a 127-35 record over the last five seasons. The Texans went 32-1 last season, good enough to earn what would have been a No. 2 seed in the NJCAA Tournament (had it not been canceled by the COVID-19 outbreak) and National Coach of the Year honors.

Petree is a graduate of Texas Tech, where she played for Hall of Fame coach Marsha Sharp.

After graduating, she made coaching stops as an assistant at North Texas and Angelo State University, moving up to head coach at New Mexico Junior College, Cisco Junior College, and South Plains. She sports and overall record of 226-96.

Changing jobs always takes courage, but Petree admits taking over a program during a pandemic is a unique scenario.

"I had one of the best jobs in the country in junior college basketball at South Plains," Petree told NewsChannel 7 over Skype. "For me to quit my job and commit to another school across the country during a world pandemic, it shows how much respect I have for the program and what Coach Scovel has done. I'm just super excited to be a part of it. It's the best of the best."

A fair statement given Scovel's legacy at GCSC. When it comes to following one of the greatest NJCAA coaches of all-time, Petree doesn't flinch.

"You know the respect I have for coach [Scovel], but the great thing about this situation is I don't have to compete with her. I don't have to replace her. I have to compete with Chipola, with Northwest Florida, with Pensacola and Tallahassee. Those are the guys that I have to beat. Coach Scovel is in my corner, and what a great resource. I'm going to use her. I'm cocky and confident, but I have zero ego. I just want to win and so if we can pull into her connections, and she's got ideas, I love it."

Scovel's attitude and their relationship were key in enticing Petree to take the job without visiting the campus and meeting players or administrators face to face.

"Coach has kind of been a mentor of mine the past couple of years," Petree added. "It has kind of moved a little bit more of not only being a mentor but also being my friend. So just her word and [Gulf Coast A.D.] Mike [Kandler] and everybody that was on the committee, they were just so great. And you know everybody around the country knows what Gulf Coast women's basketball is, so it didn't need much selling."

Gulf Coast loses All-American Ahlana Smith and most of the scoring from this year's squad, so recruiting is a top priority for Petree. With two signees thus far, she'll need to fill six or seven more slots.

As for when she plans to move east, the timing depends on the ever-changing COVID-19 outbreak.

Here are some of the coaching highlights from Petree's resume:

Overall record the five years: 127-35
Overall as a head coach: 226-96
Wins in last 2 years: 62
2019 – 30-5 and elite 8
2020 – 32-1 conference champs & region 5 champs

Awards & accolades:
2017 & 2019 – Coach of Year Finalist WBCA National
2019 & 2020 – Conference Coach of the Year
2020 – National Coach of the Year; WBCA and
2019 – Ranked #1 in country first time in school history
2020 – Ranked #1 in country multiple weeks

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