David Saur has no problem describing his Chatham University’s women’s basketball team as “further along” than many may have imagined when he took over as head coach.
When Saur, a Sykesville native, arrived in Pittsburgh, the Cougars were coming off a five-win season. In his decade-plus college coaching career, Saur made six different stops and spent time with men’s and women’s programs from Division I to D-III — before Chatham made him the Presidents’ Athletic Conference’s youngest coach by hiring him last April.
The Cougars are enjoying success under Saur, 31, who spent the previous two seasons as an assistant women’s coach at Louisiana Monroe. Chatham is 10-11 and in the middle of the PAC pack at 6-6.
“For me, I was ready to take those reins and have my own program,” Saur said. “It was really just the right fit and right timing. … A lot of things came together at the right time.”
Chatham’s recent move away from being an all-female campus helped expand the recruiting pool, Saur said, which meant the university’s teams had a chance to attract more athletes. Saur said the Cougars’ athletics program was sort of a “sleeping giant” in the PAC.
His team is making its presence known this winter.
Chatham defeated Washington & Jefferson 72-70 on Jan. 26 in an upset — the Cougars were 0-30 all-time against the first-place Presidents, who were 12-4 going into the game. Chatham made 17 3-pointers (17-for-41) in the win, a new school record it had broken earlier in the season with 16 made 3s.
In early January, graduate student Megan Sieg reached 1,000 career points in a win over Geneva. Six days before that, senior Ashley McClain hit the 1,000-point mark in a loss to Bethany.
Chatham was picked to finish seventh in nine-team PAC before the season began, but the Cougars are making prognosticators take notice.
Again, that’s just fine with Saur, who played at Century High School and then St. John’s Catholic Prep in Frederick and Laurinburg Prep in North Carolina before heading to Thiel College in 2007.
His Cougars have already doubled their win totals, overall and in conference play, from last winter.
“I want to be a pressing, trapping up and down, shoot-a-bunch-of-3s kind of team,” Saur said “Luckily coming in, we’ve had the talent to do it. We’ve got seniors who have bought in to really playing that way and understanding how we have to practice to consistently be that. I think we’re just starting to hit our stride with that style of play.”
McClain and fellow senior Katie Sieg share the team’s scoring lead at 15.9 points per game, tied for fifth best in the PAC. Sieg also averages 6.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and a conference best 3.0 steals.
Chatham ties the school record for PAC wins with its next conference victory, something Saur said the Cougars will celebrate but not dwell on with four regular-season games remaining.
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“You have goals and you want to accomplish big things,” Saur said. “That’s something we’re certainly striving to do as competitors.”
Saur became an assistant coach for Thiel’s women’s team will he was still an undergraduate at the college, and he helped the men’s and women’s programs from 2008-11. Thiel’s men posted 20 wins in 2010-11 and went undefeated in PAC play.
In 2011-12, Saur went to California (Pa.) University, a Division II women’s powerhouse, and worked as an assistant and recruiting coordinator. Saur landed commitments who became starters for Cal’s 2014 national championship team.
The following year, Saur served as an assistant at Indiana (Pa.) University and was part of a nationally ranked women’s team that made the D-II NCAA tournament.
Saur’s next stop was Stetson University, a Division I school in Florida, from 2013-15. He helped lead the Hatters to the WNIT each of his two seasons there, and earned Atlantic Sun Conference Assistant Coach of the Year by FGBScouting.com, as well as one of the nation's top mid-major assistants.
After a one-year stint at UMass-Lowell, Saur coached at Louisiana Monroe for two years and did his part in recruiting by signing nine newcomers for the 2017-18 season.
“It has been awesome,” Saur said. “I’ve been able to work for phenomenal head coaches at every stop. That has been more of what I attribute to the early success. … Second to none. I couldn’t have asked for better support and people to lean on. That’s been the ride.”