Creating Coaches: From Sales-Associate to Head Coach of the Loyola Women’s Basketball Team, Allison Guth

Loyola women’s basketball Head Coach Allison Guth was in Palm Springs, California when she received a phone call that changed her life.

Loyola women’s basketball Head Coach Allison Guth was in Palm Springs, California when she received a phone call that changed her life. As a sales-associate at Coca-Cola North America, Guth said she was sent on a visit with “a set spa and golfing” to build a relationship with a potential business partner. Little did she know, it would be her last corporate trip.

An Arlington Heights native, Guth was raised with basketball, finding her love for the sport through her father. She said he played during high school and continued to play in intramural leagues at his alma mater, Northwestern University. As Guth grew up, she said her father taught her the ropes.

There weren’t many organized basketball leagues for women when she was younger, Guth said. From the third to sixth or seventh grade, she said she had to play in boys clubs until girl leagues started popping up. 

In 2000, she helped lead Buffalo Grove High School to a state title, earning an induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame with her team in 2013, according to Loyola Athletics.

Going into college, Guth was accepted into University of Illinois’ Gies College of Business, and expected to play golf instead of basketball.

“That was kind of the path I took,” Guth said. “I quickly realized as a freshman in college that I missed [basketball] incredibly. My path was really unique, because I ended up getting an opportunity to walk on and then earn a scholarship playing basketball.”

Guth said being a walk-on gave her the chance to compete alongside some of the best talent in the country when the Fighting Illini made their run to the NCAA Tournament in 2003. She added her time as a student athlete also helped her meet people critical to her return to the industry.

After graduating with a bachelor’s of science in business organizations with a focus in marketing, Guth began working with Coca-Cola North America in Denver. While on a business trip in Palm Springs, Guth said she received a call from former Loyola Head Coach Shannon Reidy. After meeting in a Nike clinic when Guth was still playing collegiately, she offered Guth the chance to return to Chicago and work on recruiting for her team at Loyola.

Once Guth landed back in Denver and had time to assess the situation, she said it felt like divine timing that an opportunity for her to follow her true passion in leadership and her purpose of impacting people positively came her way. Despite the perks that came with her job — such as the company car and the business trips to vacation-esque destinations like Palm Springs — she described her decision as a no-brainer.

“I turned that all in for a bike and moved to Chicago because I had to save money,” Guth said. “That was the deal.”

Guth said she had always been fascinated with leadership, adding she has been gifted with the skill set to bring people together. Whether it be her student council president role in high school, her involvement in business fraternities at her university or her role across basketball teams, Guth said she was always looking for organizations that brought people together.

Transitioning from the standard nine-to-five job to working in college athletics is an effort in itself, Guth said, since the job is 24/7, 365 days a year. Regardless, Guth mentioned several times how easy it feels to put in the hours knowing she’s following her passion and purpose in coaching.

“Coaching to me is teaching, it’s mentoring, it’s impacting a young person’s life and really integral part of their life,” Guth said. “I think college is so cool. I think that these next four years really impact the next 40 years of your life.”

After 18 seasons as a head coach, Guth described her leadership role from the sidelines differently than when she was on the court. The primary focus of her coaching staff today is to have a positive impact on the lives of their players.

Guth said her student-athlete experience is over, and now it’s her responsibility to make her student-athletes have the best possible version of it.

“Our why is really the student-athlete experience,” Guth said. “We want our players, our young women, to come in and to grow holistically — I’m real serious when I say this — to be the best versions of themselves when they’re crossing that graduation stage.”

After finishing with a 6-24 overall record, going 1-15 in the Atlantic 10 (A-10) during the 2022-23 season, there is room for growth for the Ramblers. Despite not being happy with the outcome, Guth said she believes this year was foundational in a lot of ways, helping build the blueprint for the championship culture she wants to build.

“I believe that comparison is the thief of all joy,” Guth said. “I think we got to kind of stay in your lane, put your head down, do the hard work and get it done.”

Featured image courtesy of Steve Woltmann for Loyola Athletics

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