Former Hardin-Simmons basketball player and assistant coach Melanie Chonko has been named the head coach of the HSU women's basketball program, athletic director John Neese announced on Monday.
Chonko, who has been an assistant coach for the Cowgirls for nine seasons, replaces Shanna Briggs who resigned last month. Chonko is the 15th head coach in the program's history that dates back to 1909.
"I am extremely excited and blessed by the opportunity to take over the program and lead the Cowgirls," said Chonko. "I loved Hardin-Simmons as a student-athlete, and I look forward to providing the same quality experience that I was privileged to have for the current and future members of Cowgirl Basketball. Thank you to Dr. Hall, Mr. Neese and everyone at Hardin-Simmons for your support."
Chonko has been an instrumental part of HSU's success not only as a player from 1998-2001 but also as an excellent recruiter as an assistant for the last nine years. She helped lead the Cowgirls to the 2006 NCAA Final Four. The team had a record of 170-72 in her tenure as an assistant.
"As a player and as an assistant coach, Melanie Chonko has been involved in many of the top moments in the history of Cowgirl basketball," said Neese. "She has been able to demonstrate many of her talents behind the scenes as an assistant coach and we believe that the time is right for her to take over complete leadership of this program."
"She has already built up a strong network of recruiting contacts throughout the state and we know that will help make this transition a smooth one."
Chonko was the epitome of a hard worker as a player. She played on the junior varsity as a freshman and worked her way to the varsity and appeared in three games that season. She played in 16 games as a sophomore and played in 26 as the backup point guard as a junior.
As a senior, she had one of the better all-around seasons for an HSU point guard. She started all 28 games and set an HSU single-season record that still stands with 109 steals. She also had 122 rebounds, 95 assists and averaged 5.6 points per game as the team won the American Southwest Conference title and went to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. She was also named the ASC defensive player of the year that season.
Chonko was part of four conference titles at HSU and played in seven career NCAA Tournament games. She was also an academic all-ASC selection three times and was a CoSIDA academic all-American as a senior.
She graduated from HSU in 2001 with a 4.0 GPA as a computer science major. She was awarded the Olsen Medal as the top graduating female student that year. She also earned a master's degree from HSU in Sports and Recreation Management.
The former Melanie Orsak is a native of Schulenburg and is married to Paul Chonko. They have a two-year old son, Marcus.
Information for this story provided by HSU Athletics.