Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Kinesiology and Sport Studies

Major Professor

Lars Dzikus

Committee Members

Joy T. DSensi, Steven N. Waller, Roasalind I. J. Hackett


NCAA Division I college basketball coaching is a high-stakes, high-reward profession. This study is based on three premises: (a) there is increasing pressure on college basketball coaches to win immediately and win consistently; (b) coaches are expected to maintain their integrity; (c) the pressure to win immediately and win consistently can influence some coaches to compromise their integrity. Given that context, the purpose of this study was to investigate and illuminate the lived experience of Christian head men’s and women’s basketball coaches at public, NCAA Division I institutions. This study was guided by two guiding research questions: (a) What is the lived experience of both men’s and women’s head basketball coaches at public, NCAA, DI institutions who self-identify as Christian?; (b) How does their religion influence the coaches’ leadership style?

This study was a qualitative inquiry in the interpretivist, or constructivist paradigm. The research design included the methodology of portraiture. Sources of data for analysis from the four participants included qualitative content analysis of team media guides, official team websites and newspapers, interviews, and observations of a gameday practice and an actual game. In portraiture, the researcher’s voice is not muted, but transparently integrated into the final grand composition (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997).

The findings demonstrated that (a) the four participants placed importance on their religious communities, despite frequent moves and hectic schedules; (b) their Christian faith provided them a broader perspective than just winning and losing that mitigated the high-pressure demands of the job; (c) that the coaches demonstrated a heart of service for their players and communities, which was rooted in their faith. As a group, the coaches’ leadership style was placed in the theoretical framework of legacy leadership. Legacy leadership is an extension of transformational and servant leadership with an intentional focus on leader reproduction. Implications for scholars include the potential for interdisciplinary research in the overlapping areas of religion, leadership, and coaching science. Practical implications include the need for athletic administrators and coaches to accommodate workplace spirituality of all types, including Christianity.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."