HAYS, Kan. – Fort Hays State University Women’s Basketball will have a new, but very familiar face as its leader going into the 2023-24 season. On Monday (Mar. 27) head coach Tony Hobson announced his retirement after putting together a phenomenal career record of 745-227 in 31 seasons as a collegiate head coach, including a 332-121 mark over 15 years that made him the winningest coach in Fort Hays State program history. The university and Director of Athletics Curtis Hammeke looked no further than the individual who has been instrumental in helping Hobson build the program into one of the strongest in NCAA Division II the last 11 years. Assistant coach Talia Kahrs will elevate into the role of head coach.
A press conference to officially introduce Kahrs as the next head coach will be held on Thursday, April 13 at the FHSU Memorial Union Lobby at 5 p.m. On Saturday, April 15, the university will be holding a celebration of Tony Hobson‘s coaching career at the Robbins Center at 11 a.m. The delay for these in-person celebrations is to allow for family members to be in attendance.
Hobson has elevated the FHSU Women’s Basketball program to heights it never saw at the NCAA Division II level prior to his arrival, serving as head coach from 2008 to 2023. The program has won 20 or more games in 12-straight seasons going back to the 2011-12 campaign, which is the longest-running streak in NCAA Division II. He guided the Tigers to 30 or more wins three times and the Tigers were the No. 1 seed in the Central Regional of the NCAA Tournament four times under Hobson’s leadership, making the regional final three times (2015, 2019, 2022) and the regional semifinals twice. FHSU was an NCAA Tournament qualifier seven of the last nine years after qualifying for the NCAA national tournament just once before Hobson became head coach.
The Tigers enjoyed six MIAA Championships under Hobson’s guidance, which included four regular season titles (2015, 2019, 2021, 2022) and two tournament titles (2019, 2022). He was the MIAA Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year four times (2015, 2016, 2019, 2021). Hobson was also the WBCA Regional Coach of the Year in 2015 and 2019 and was named the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association Four-Year College Coach of the Year in 2019 and 2022.
“Tony has done an outstanding job with our women’s basketball program over the past 15 years,” said Hammeke. “Our program has become consistently competitive at the conference, regional, and national levels during his tenure.”
Hobson started his career as head coach at Cloud County (Kan.) Community College in 1983-84, where he coached for six years. Eventually he became head coach at Barton County (Kan.) Community College for three years from 1997 to 2000. Hobson notched 202 wins as a head coach in nine years as a junior college head coach. He then moved on to Hastings College (Neb.), where he put together a national powerhouse program at the NAIA level for seven years from 2001 to 2008. Hastings won three NAIA national titles (2002, 2003, 2006) under Hobson’s guidance and won 211 games, reaching the 30-win plateau in five of his seven seasons. Hobson then came to FHSU, where he enjoyed his longest tenure as a head coach and tacked on 332 wins to his career total of 745.
“Everybody in their career knows this time will come, and hopefully you get to go out on your own terms like I get to,” said Hobson. “It’s good timing for me to retire. I always hoped I’d be able to leave a really good team and have somebody take over for me that I’m confident in and will take really good care of that group that I’m leaving. Both of those things have happened. We’ve been able to sustain success for a long period of time and hopefully the way we are transitioning into this next phase of the program will give us the best chance of keeping that going. This is a great group of players we have right now and I think it’s going to be about as seamless of a transition as possible.”
Helping Hobson push FHSU to new heights in the NCAA Division II realm since the 2012-13 season has been FHSU graduate Talia Kahrs (formerly Miller), who played for Hobson at FHSU from 2008-11. She then served as a student assistant coach in 2011-12 and elevated to assistant coach in 2012-13, highly instrumental in the success of the team and several great players that have been a part of the program the last 12 years. She has been here as both a player and coach during Hobson’s entire 15-year tenure at FHSU.
“I really believe in Talia,” said Hobson. “She is a really intelligent, hard-working person and one of the more unselfish individuals I’ve ever been around. I know she has the players’ respect and I think that is of utmost importance. She has turned into a really good recruiter, and to recruit kids you have to be genuine and she is that. You can’t try to be something you’re not because kids are smart, they figure that out. As far as X’s and O’s go, she’s on top of it. The hard part of coaching is getting individuals here that fit into what you want to do, on and off the court. Talia has been one of the main reasons why we have been able to sustain what we have going here at FHSU because we have stability as a coaching staff. She has had plenty of interest from the outside the last few years and she has been very patient on doing her job at a very high level, waiting for her opportunity. As much of I think of her as a coach, I think even more highly of her as a person. I think she will do an excellent job.”
The Tigers have garnered 42 All-MIAA selections while Kahrs has been on the sideline with Hobson since 2011 to go with the six conference championships and seven NCAA Tournament appearances. They have also coached three All-America players in that span, including Kate Lehman, Tatyana Legette, and Jaden Hobbs. Lehman and Legette also garnered MIAA Player of the Year honors in their time as Tigers.
“I’m just really thankful for this opportunity and to have spent as much time as I have with Tony. To learn under him with as successful as he has been over the years,” said Kahrs. “I’m thankful for the way he allowed me to do more in my role as assistant over the years to get me to this point where I feel confident that I’m prepared to be head coach. I’m very excited and willing to take the opportunity to lead this group of women, a team that we’ve worked really hard to put together.”
“Talia possesses all the traits we want to see in a coach to lead our program forward,” said Hammeke. “She is passionate, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and has a strong work ethic. These characteristics coupled with her personality, love for the game, and care for our student-athletes, makes her well suited to take over where Tony left off.”
Kahrs will be the seventh head coach of women’s basketball at Fort Hays State since 1969.