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Union community grieves after women’s coach dies

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–“Sadness, loss and despair are only a few of the emotions we’re feeling today, but we are trusting in God to provide help and hope for us,” Union University President David S. Dockery said during a memorial service for basketball coach Lisa Caudle Hutchens Feb. 22.
Hutchens, 37, co-head coach of Union’s women’s basketball team, was found dead in her home Feb. 20. The Jackson Police Department ruled the death was caused by a self-inflicted gunshot.
“Sometimes in life, things happen that will change your life forever. On Saturday, the terrible news of Lisa’s death changed my life and countless others forever,” Jerry Tidwell said to a standing-room-only crowd in the Union chapel. Tidwell is pastor of West Jackson Baptist Church, where Hutchens had been a member since 1997.
Since Hutchens joined the Lady Bulldogs in 1991 as assistant coach, the team reached the NAIA national tournament six times, winning their first-ever national title last year. She had been named co-head coach this season, after a year’s leave of absence in 1997-98 to work on her doctorate at the University of Memphis.
Hutchens, who was also an assistant professor at Union, received her bachelor’s degree from Union in 1983, finishing third in her class. She was the first women’s basketball player at Union to be named NAIA All-American and NAIA Academic All-American.
Hutchens earned a master’s degree in education from Memphis State University in 1985. She went on to coach women’s basketball at South Side High School in Jackson from 1986-91. While at South Side, Hutchens was named district coach of the year two years in a row and led the Lady Hawks to the first undefeated season in Madison County history.
A 1979 graduate of Greenfield (Tenn.) High School, Hutchens was honorable mention All-State for the Yellow Jackets and remains the school’s all-time leading scorer with more than 2,000 points.
In response to the grief expressed by students and athletes, the university has developed a team of faculty and staff to counsel those struggling with Hutchens’ death. “Lisa was a beloved member of this community, and we are grieving her loss deeply,” Dockery said.
“She was a person who was achieving great levels of excellence on a professional level,” Dockery continued. Hutchens had just finished her class work for her doctorate and was preparing to begin her dissertation.
Both Union’s men’s and women’s basketball teams were to resume their regular-season games Feb. 22, needing to finish their schedule before the start of the TranSouth Conference tournament Feb. 27. They were to play Lyon College in Batesville, Ark., Feb. 22; David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 24; and Williams College at home Feb. 25.
After a funeral service Feb. 23 in Union’s chapel, a graveside burial service will be Feb. 24 at Highland Cemetery in Greenfield.
She is survived by her parents, Gene Caudle of Greenfield and Carole Wood Harrison of Jackson; a brother, Mike Caudle of Greenfield, and a sister, Janet Caudle Bryant of Jackson.