Paul Sanderford

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Paul "Buster" Sanderford (born November 8, 1949) is a retired college basketball coach who coached from the 1970s to 2000s. From 1976 to 1982, Sanderford accumulated 163 wins and 19 losses while coaching the women's basketball team at Louisburg Junior College. At Louisburg, Sanderford won the NJCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship in 1981 and lost the championship in 1982. As part of the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers basketball team from 1982 to 1997, Sanderford won the Sun Belt Conference women's basketball tournament seven teams and reached the final of the 1992 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament. With 365 wins and 120 losses, Sanderford has held the record for most women's basketball wins at Western Kentucky for over twenty years.

While coaching the Nebraska Cornhuskers women's basketball team from 1997 to 2002, Sanderford reached the final of the Women's National Invitation Tournament in 1997 and the second round of the 1998 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament. After stepping down from his coaching position in 2002, Sanderford had 88 wins and 69 losses with Nebraska. Apart from coaching, Sanderford has worked as a color analyst from the 2000s to 2010s. Sanderford was selected to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2022.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

On November 8, 1949, Sanderford was born in Zebulon, North Carolina.[2] Growing up, Sanderford was on the basketball and baseball teams while attending Corinth Holders High School.[3] After high school, Sanderford was a minor league baseball player for the Chicago White Sox.[4] During the 1970s, Sanderford went to Louisburg College, Methodist College and North Carolina State University for his post secondary education. His programs included sociology and counselling.[5] While attending college, Sanderford primarily played baseball while also playing basketball.[6]


Early 1970s to Late 1990s[edit]

While at Methodist during the early 1970s, Sanderford worked as a school counselor in their admissions department. He continued his work in admissions when he became an assistant director in 1973.[7] In 1975, Sanderford became a dean for Methodist.[8] During this time period, Sanderford worked with their baseball team for two years before moving to their basketball team for a year in assistant coaching positions. In 1976, Sanderford joined the women's basketball team at Louisburg Junior College as their head coach.[9]

With Louisburg, Sanderford won the NJCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship in 1981.[10] The following year, Sanderford and Louisburg lost the NJCAA championship final to Moberty.[11][12] At Louisburg, Sanderford had 163 wins and 19 losses. In May 1982, it was announced that Sanderford would take a break from Louisburg in August 1982 and resume his tenure the following year.[13]

Sanderford was hired as the coach of the Western Kentucky Lady Toppers basketball team in June 1982.[14] While coaching for Western Kentucky, he helped create an invitational basketball tournament sponsored by Bowling Green Bank during the early 1980s.[15] Sanderford won the Sun Belt Conference women's basketball tournament seven times and finished in second five times between 1983 and 1997.[16][17] His team reached the NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament twelve times, which included back-to-back competitions from 1985 to 1995.[6][18]

At individual NCAA competitions, Sanderford reached the Final Four with Western Kentucky during the 1985 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament and 1986 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament.[19][20] During the 1992 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament, Sanderford and Western Kentucky were defeated by Stanford in the championship game.[21][22] At the National Women's Invitational Tournament with Western Kentucky, Sanderford's team was fourth in 1984 and sixth in 1996.[23][24] After leaving the team in 1997, Sanderford had 365 wins and 120 losses with Western Kentucky. He has held the Western Kentucky record for most women's basketball wins for over twenty years leading up to the 2021–22 season.[25]

Late 1990s to 2010s[edit]

In 1997, Sanderford became the coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers women's basketball team.[26] Following the announcement, members of the Nebraska Legislature disagreed with Sanderford's hiring as it went against their requirement to have more women work at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Chris Beutler thought the university's actions were "a direct affront to the Legislature".[27] For Ernie Chambers, he believed that paying Sanderford more than the previous coach, Angela Beck, was a form of sexism.[28]

With Nebraska, Sanderford was defeated in the final of the 1997 Women's National Invitation Tournament during the preseason.[29][30] From 1998 to 2000, Sanderford appeared at consecutive tournaments in the NCAA with Nebraska.[18] During these years, Sanderford and Nebraska reached the second round of the 1998 NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament.[31][32] Sanderford remained with Nebraska until 2002 when he stepped down from his coaching position due to his personal health.[33] After leaving Nebraska, Sanderford had 88 wins and 69 losses.[34]

He resumed his experience with Western Kentucky when he became a volunteer for their men's basketball team in 2002.[35] While at Western Kentucky, Sanderford worked in sportswear and had expanded his career to real estate.[36] The following year, Sanderford was chosen to work for the athletic director at Western Kentucky as an assistant. For his role, Sanderford was given tasks in broadcasting advertising and financial donations.[37]

In 2004, Sanderford became an assistant coach for the men's basketball team at Western Kentucky.[38] Sanderford remained in his assistant position until he ended his basketball coaching career in 2007.[39] That year, it was announced that Sanderford would work with the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network as a color analyst for their men's basketball games.[40] Sanderford continued his color analysis in the 2010s with ESPN and Fox College Sports.[41] He also co-hosted a ESPN Radio program alongside Wes Strader.[42]

NCAA head coaching record[edit]

Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Western Kentucky University (Sun Belt Conference) (1982–1997)
1982–83 Western Kentucky 22–7 2nd
1983–84 Western Kentucky 22–11 4th NWIT
1984–85 Western Kentucky 28–6 5-1 2nd NCAA Final Four
1985–86 Western Kentucky 32–4 6-0 1st NCAA Final Four
1986–87 Western Kentucky 24–9 4-2 3rd NCAA
1987–88 Western Kentucky 26–8 4-2 3rd NCAA
1988–89 Western Kentucky 22–9 5-1 t-1st NCAA
1989–90 Western Kentucky 17–12 4-2 t-1st NCAA
1990–91 Western Kentucky 29–3 5-1 2nd NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1991–92 Western Kentucky 27–8 13-3 t-1st NCAA Runners-up
1992–93 Western Kentucky 24–7 13-1 t-1st NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1993–94 Western Kentucky 24–10 11-3 2nd NCAA
1994–95 Western Kentucky 28–4 12-2 2nd NCAA Sweet Sixteen
1995–96 Western Kentucky 19–13 11-3 2nd NWIT
1996–97 Western Kentucky 22–9 12-2 t-1st NCAA
Western Kentucky: 365–120 (.753) 105–23 (.820)
University of Nebraska (Big 12 Conference) (1997–2002)
1997–98 Nebraska 23–10 11–5 3rd NCAA
1998–99 Nebraska 21–12 8–8 5th NCAA
1999–2000 Nebraska 18–13 10–6 5th NCAA
2000–2001 Nebraska 12–18 4–12 10th
2001–2002 Nebraska 14–16 4–12 11th
Nebraska: 88–69 (.561) 37–43 (.463)
Total: 453–189 (.706)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


Awards and honors[edit]

In 1981, Sanderford was named Coach of the Tournament after Louisburg won their 1981 NJCAA women's basketball title.[45] For junior and community colleges, Sanderford was the women's basketball coach of the year recipient with Sanderford at the 1982 Wade Trophy Awards.[8] As part of the Sun Belt Conference with Western Kentucky, Sanderford was named the conference's Coach of the Year in 1983, 1986 and 1991.[46] For individual schools, Sanderford was inducted into a hall of fame by Methodist in 1998 and Western Kentucky in 2008.[47][48] He was also inducted in 2010 into a hall of fame for Louisburg.[49]

Sanderford was inducted into the NJCAA Women's Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2000.[50] In 2010, Western Kentucky retired a jersey for Sanderson at E. A. Diddle Arena.[51] He was chosen to become part of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015.[52] After becoming a finalist for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019, Sanderson was selected for the WBHOF in 2022.[53][54]

Personal life[edit]

Sanderford was nicknamed "Buster" while at Louisburg.[55] After leaving Nebraska in 2002, Sanderford had his artery fixed with angioplasty that year.[56] He had one child during his marriage.[14]


  1. ^ "Sanderford Honored as Hall of Fame Inductee". Western Kentucky University Sports. February 14, 2022. Retrieved August 25, 2022.
  2. ^ Blomenberg, Jenn; Senappe, Bonnie (March 2007). Women's Basketball's Finest (PDF). Indianapolis: National Collegiate Athletic Association. p. 145. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  3. ^ "Corinth-Holders Native Makes Name As Leading Women's College Coach". Gold Leaf Farmer. March 15, 1990. p. 2B.
  4. ^ Pogue, Greg (July 4, 1982). "Lady Toppers' future charted by Sanderford". Daily News. Bowling Green, Kentucky. p. 2-B.
  5. ^ "WKU Women's Basketball: Former coach Sanderford named 2019 finalist for Women's Basketball Hall of Fame". WNKY. January 11, 2019. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Paul Sanderford". Western Kentucky University Athletics. June 16, 2017. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  7. ^ Hagan, Karl Michele (July 11, 1973). "Former Zebulon resident to new post" (PDF) (Press release). Fayetteville, North Carolina: Methodist College. p. 30. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  8. ^ a b "'Canes Sanderford JuCo coach of the year". The News and Observer. Raleigh, North Carolina. April 1, 1982. p. 2B.
  9. ^ "Women's coach hired". The Park City Daily News. June 7, 1982. p. 10.
  10. ^ "Louisburg coach honored". The Charlotte News. April 1, 1982. p. 16C.
  11. ^ Boren, Cindy (March 23, 2022). "Louisburg, Moberly repeat as finalists". The Kansas City Times. p. F-2.
  12. ^ "Louisburg loses by 1 in JC women's final". The News and Observer. Raleigh, North Carolina. Staff and Wire Reports. March 22, 1982. p. 4B.
  13. ^ "Sanderford takes leave". The News and Observer. Raleigh, North Carolina. May 3, 1982. p. 5B.
  14. ^ a b "Western chooses juco whiz as women's cage coach". The Messenger. Madisonville, Kentucky. June 12, 1982. p. 11.
  15. ^ Mathis, Mark C. (March 26, 1985). "Sanderford has worked fast at WKU". Park City Daily News. p. 1-B.
  16. ^ The Daily News (May 7, 2015). "Sanderford highlights 2015 honorees". The Park City Daily News. p. 1C.
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  18. ^ a b Nixon, Rick; Watsky, Michelle (December 2019). "2020 Women's Final Four Records Book" (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association. p. 148. Retrieved March 23, 2022.
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  20. ^ Lowenkron, Hank (March 29, 1986). "Lady Horns rip Lady Toppers". Wichita Falls Record News. p. 1B.
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  24. ^ Frakes, Jason (March 24, 1996). "Lady Tops' effort in NWIT loss bums coach". Park City Daily News. p. 3-B.
  25. ^ Mulligan, Lille-Anne, ed. (December 9, 2021). "Lady Topper Basketball 2021-22 Media Guide" (PDF). Western Kentucky University. WKU Athletic Media Relations Office. pp. 94–96. Retrieved March 23, 2022.
  26. ^ "Nebraska coach hired amid sexism charges". The Knoxville News-Sentinel. June 21, 1997. p. C2.
  27. ^ Knapp, Fred (June 13, 1997). "Selection of UNL coach stirs dispute". Lincoln Journal Star.
  28. ^ "Legislators criticize hiring". The Salina Journal. The Associated Press. June 21, 1997. p. C1.
  29. ^ "Husker Coach Vows New Intensity Level". The Daily Oklahoman. Associated Press. November 22, 1997. sec. Sports p. 26.
  30. ^ "1997 Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament" (PDF). Women's National Invitation Tournament. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  31. ^ Williams, Jennifer L. (March 16, 1998). "ODU fights forward". Daily Press. Newport News, Virginia. pp. D1, D4.
  32. ^ "Tournament Scores, Summaries". Daily Press. Newport News, Virginia. March 16, 1998. p. D4.
  33. ^ "Sanderford resigns as NU women's coach". Fremont Tribune. Associated Press. June 14, 2002. Retrieved March 23, 2022.
  34. ^ Griesch, Jeff, ed. (October 20, 2021). "2021-22 Nebraska Women's Basketball" (PDF). University of Nebraska Athletics. p. 162. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  35. ^ "Sanderford is a legend at Western". Park City Daily News. June 7, 2007. p. 4A.
  36. ^ "Former Nebraska women's coach says he pities Cornhusker players". Sioux City Journal. Associated Press. February 27, 2003. p. B5.
  37. ^ "Sanderford back on The Hill as assistant athletic director". News Democrat & Leader. August 12, 2003. p. B-2.
  38. ^ "Sanderford hired as full-time men's assistant coach at Western Kentucky". Lincoln Journal Star. May 19, 2004. p. 2C.
  39. ^ "Sanderford calls it a career". The Courier-Journal. June 10, 2007. p. C7.
  40. ^ Herbst, Rob (November 7, 2007). "WKU expands TV coverage". The Park City Daily News. pp. 1C, 3C.
  41. ^ "Sanderford picked as 2019 Women's Basketball Hall finalist". The Park City Daily News. January 11, 2019. p. 1C.
  42. ^ "Talk of the Town: Q&A with Wes Strader". The Park City Daily News. June 29, 2015. p. 1A.
  43. ^ 2020–2021 WKU Women’s Basketball Media Guide retrieved 23 June 2022
  44. ^ 2020–2021 Nebraska Women’s Basketball Media Guide retrieved 23 June 2022
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  48. ^ "WKU Athletic Hall of Fame". WKU Alumni Association. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  49. ^ "Hall of Fame". Louisburg College Athletics. October 29, 2012. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  50. ^ "Women's Basketball Record Book 2021" (PDF). National Junior College Athletic Association. June 2021. p. 7. Retrieved March 23, 2022.
  51. ^ Compton, Michael (February 7, 2010). "Sanderford humbled by ceremony". Park City Daily News. p. 3B.
  52. ^ Cowgill, Fred (June 10, 2015). "Former WKU coach to be inducted in Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame". WLKY. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  53. ^ WBKO Staff (February 5, 2019). "Sanderford Denied Hall Of Fame Bid". WBKO. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  54. ^ Moore, Hannah (February 15, 2022). "Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2022 announced". WATE. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  55. ^ "Louisburg to Play In Benefit Game". The Gold Leaf Farmer. September 28, 1978. p. 10.
  56. ^ "Sanderford recovering from successful surgery". ESPN. July 10, 2002. Retrieved March 22, 2022.