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By Marlana Smith
Amy Eagan attributes her success to values and lessons she learned from her parents and living in Shelby County.
Eagan is known for her basketball career and by many for striving to be successful in all she does.
Eagan was recently named the 2021 NCAA Division-II National Coach of the Year by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. In her first season as Drury University’s head coach, Eagan guided the Lady Panthers to a 24-2 record. Drury finished runner-up in the recently-completed national tournament.
Amy’s parents, Maurice and Tootie Eagan of rural Shelbina, said they had a basketball goal at their house when they lived in town. Maurice said she played ball with all the boys and kids in the neighborhood.
“There was always something going on out there,” he said.
Maurice said he could see the talent she had when playing in the fifth and sixth grade tournament at Leonard.
Amy participated in other sports in high school, but basketball was the one she had fun playing and working at.
Coming in as a freshman, Mollie (Mihalevich) Trodgon took Eagan under her wing.
Amy said in a Zoom interview with the Herald last week she idolized Mollie for playing varsity.
Mollie recalled her dad speaking to her in the summer of 1991 about a really good eighth grader coming up and suggested reaching out.
“Amy fit right into our mix,” Trodgon said. “In addition, we became really good friends. You couldn’t help but to like her.
“Thirty years later that ‘little freshman’ is still one of my dearest friends.”
Trodgon said off the court, Eagan was the kind of person you only hope for your children.
“She put her heart into whatever she was doing and still does,” Trodgon added.
Maurice recalled a game at Macon. He said a friend of his brought someone and told them, “You’re going to see one of the best players in northeast Missouri tonight.
“Amy only scored two or three points in the first half and the guy started mocking him because she wasn’t scoring well,” Maurice continued, “She came out and took over the second half and scored 30 points.”
During the four years Eagan played for the Lady Birds, the team lost four games.
“South Shelby, at that time, was almost a dynasty,” Amy said.
Former South assistant coach Kathey Wallace said Amy was a natural athlete. She thinks one thing that really made Amy strong was her family values.
Kathey said her ball handling, passing skills and view of the floor was unbelievable.
“I would like to have a quarter for every time she shot the ball before games, during games and at home,” Wallace said.
Kathey acknowledged the opportunity and privilege to coach many young wonderful female athletes.
What sticks out to Amy about playing in high school is not the individual games, as much as time with her teammates. Eagan recalled Mollie driving her to every practice and taking her home.
“She didn’t want to be the lime-light. She wanted to be a team member, no matter where we put her. It was all about how the team could do its best,” Wallace said.
Former teammate Teri Sigler said Eagan was driven to succeed as an individual but also driven to help those around her play up to their potential.
Amy knew she wanted to play college basketball, but admitted being a homebody.
Eagan recalled the time she and her Dad visited Missouri State.
“I remember sitting in the vehicle and turning to my Dad and saying, ‘I don’t know why we are visiting here.’ He was like, ‘What?’,” Amy continued. “I said it’s too far from home, I won’t go this far from home.”
In 1996, Eagan began her college career at Truman State University in Kirksville.
When choosing Truman State, there was no basketball coach.
Athletic director Kathy (Stevenson) Turpin called Amy and promised to get a good coach if she would attend Truman.
“It was close to home and I knew I could probably make an impact as a freshman and get a great education,” said Eagan.
During her playing career, Amy was named an honorable mention All-American.
Eagan tallied double figures in 76 collegiate games and started 98 of 100 contests played for the Bulldogs. She finished with 1,527 points.
Amy is the all-time leader at Truman St. in assists (529), steals (328) and steals per game (3.3), free throws made (483) and free throws attempted (704).
She set Truman State’s single-game scoring record with 46 points against Southern Indiana and was a four-time all-conference standout for the Bulldogs from 1996-1999.
After finishing at Truman, Amy still had the desire to play basketball.
Eagan played professionally overseas in Asker, Norway for a year. She admitted it was a great experience, but after a year was ready to be done.
Eagan planned on returning to Truman when accepted into its master’s arts and education program and getting a master’s in teaching.
Amy never thought about coaching.
It was the summer before going back to Truman when her uncle called and said Quincy University needed an assistant coach.
“After I walked off campus that day after my interview, I thought to myself, ‘If I blew this, I am going to be mad.’ That’s where it all started.
“I never even thought it was an option. And then I fell in love with it,” Eagan added.
Amy took the assistant coaching position at QU in 2001 under Larry Just.
During her four years with the Lady Hawks, they made three straight trips to the NCAA Division II national tournament and won back-to-back Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) regular season and tournament titles. The 2003-2004 squad won a school-record 29 games and advanced to the NCAA-II Elite Eight.
From 2005-2007, Eagan coached at St. Ambrose (Iowa). In her first season, the team went 21-11 before reaching the NAIA national tournament in year two. The Bees were 27-6, posting a 14-0 record en route to Amy earning Midwest Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year.
“She loves it (coaching) so much and that’s why she has been successful,” Tootie Eagan said.
Eagan coached varsity and junior varsity. She had 26 athletes without an assistant coach at St. Ambrose.
“I was kind of burnt out,” Eagan said.
Amy’s brother, Eric, was a store manager for Walgreen’s in St. Louis and got her a job.
“It was the worst decision, ever,” Amy said.
While managing a Walgreen’s, she was contacted by Ashford (Iowa) University who needed a coach to rebuild the program.
In 2010, Eagan began a three-year journey at Ashford and improved on the Saints’ win totals in each of her three seasons. Her 2011-12 team earned Women’s Basketball Coaches Association honors by posting 3.40 grade-point average, one of the best in NAIA.
The head coaching position at Truman State opened up.
“I stalked the AD until he hired me,” she chuckled.
Eagan was inducted into the Truman Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.
“She accomplished greatness as a player, and the next great feat for someone who loves the sport like she does was to coach and teach it with the same passion she had as a player. And that’s exactly what she has done,” said Sigler.
In six seasons with the Bulldogs, Eagan became the program’s all-time leader in career coaching wins and winning percentage posting a mark of 111-62 (.642).
During her final season as head coach in 2018-19, Amy led the Bulldogs to a 23-8 record, a 13-5 mark in the GLVC and a NCAA-II tournament appearance. It was the best finish in the program’s 36-year history.
In 2019, Eagan accepted a job at Drury as a Lady Panthers assistant coach.
Amy was named head coach on April 13, 2020.
“I think for me and for hopefully every coach you talk to who does it for the right reasons, it’s because you want to impact kids and help them grow,” Eagan said, “That’s what this year is about, that’s what every year is about.”
Tootie noted basketball was important to Amy but she wanted the girls to get a good education.
Drury defeated Charleston in the national quarterfinals, then Lander in the semi-final round. In the national championship game, the Lady Panthers lost to Lubbock Christian.
“It’s work, but it’s something that I enjoy and am passionate about and it’s fun for me,” Eagan added, “As long as I can continue to do it, I will do it.”
Drury won both the GLVC’s regular season and league tournament championships.
Eagan received the Pat Summitt Trophy named after the longtime late University of Tennessee women’s coach.
Amy said she tells her student-athletes all the time, “Anything that you want to accomplish, you can accomplish. If you believe that and work hard, you will accomplish it.
“Average is really easy; anybody can be average. But anybody that wants to be great, you can do that if you sacrifice. The sky is the limit for anyone.”
Eagan encourages young athletes to “Dream Big.”