The carousel turns
Coaching vacancy chatter dominates Final Four scene
Posted: Monday April 2, 2007 2:54PM; Updated: Monday April 2, 2007 5:05PM
CLEVELAND -- Duke coach Gail Goestenkors had graciously accepted her AP Coach of the Year award and applauded Oklahoma's Courtney Paris as she picked up her Player of the Year trophy. Then, laughing from her seat in a Cleveland hotel ballroom, Goestenkors put her hands together and mimicked a shark fin moving through the water. She knew why the media members gathering in the back of the room were there. As Paris, a surprise choice for Player of the Year, stood uninterrupted by the dais with her coach, Sherri Coale, about a dozen media swarmed around Goestenkors, whose team was eliminated by Rutgers in the Sweet 16.
Congratulations or your award, Gail. What are your thoughts on the Texas job?
With all due respect to Tennessee, LSU, Rutgers, North Carolina and Paris, the most intriguing story at the women's Final Four has been Goestenkors, who has spent several days pondering a lucrative (reportedly around $800,000 annually) offer from Texas -- reportedly matched by Duke. Texas is just the biggest of an unprecedented flood of big-time job openings in women's basketball. Florida, LSU, Penn State, Washington and Michigan are also in the hunt in what has become a blazing hot market. Arkansas hired Louisville coach Tom Collen to replace Susie Gardner, and Louisville hired Maryland assistant Jeff Walz to replace Collen.
Meanwhile, other schools cracked open the vaults to keep their prized coaches from jumping. Michigan State signed Joanne McCallie to a new five-year deal, and Temple gave Dawn Staley a six-year extension. Arizona State coach Charli Turner Thorne added one year to a five-year extension she signed last year. Ball State coach Tracy Roller nearly doubled her salary to $180,000, making her the third-highest paid employee at BSU and putting her on par with men's basketball coach Ronny Thompson. With the possibility of the Duke job opening up, one of the most sought-after coaches will be Cal coach Joanne Boyle, a Duke alum and former Blue Devils assistant who was reportedly on the Florida campus Friday. (Meanwhile, according to a report at insidebayarea.com, Boyle and AD Sandy Barbour are in discussions to "extend and enhance" the five-year deal Boyle signed in 2005.)
One big question hovers above all the hubbub: Is the pool of women's coaches ready to step into these high-salaried, high-stakes positions big enough to fill all the jobs that are becoming available? A number of coaches in Cleveland have privately said no. It's a telling sign that no names surface when coaches and insiders are asked who Texas will pursue if Goestenkors turns down the job.
"In the next three or four years, we're going to see what the byproduct of Title IX is," says Ohio State Jim Foster. "Have people gone through the evolution necessary to be successful? It's a very difficult job being an athletic director today. The steps necessary to be at the top level in coaching have changed so dramatically. [Women's basketball] just got to the point where we have the three assistants, the basketball operations person, the graduate assistant. What have you done to walk up the ladder? Were you anointed. Were you handed it? Or did you actually earn it? And are you prepared for what this thing is? What the head coach's job is today is light years ahead of what it was 10 years ago. And all these people who have had these jobs for a long time grew in them."
When Foster left Vanderbilt after 11 years as head coach, "I was ready to coach at Ohio State," he says. "I wouldn't have been ready to go from St. Joe's [where he coached for 13 years before Vanderbilt] to Ohio State."
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