Will Gene Smith prove that he is as good at hiring coaches as Andy Geiger was?

Will Gene Smith prove that he is as good at hiring coaches as Andy Geiger was?

It has been a month since Ohio State announced that Jim Foster would not be returning as coach of the women’s basketball team and the OSU athletic department has been busy searching for a new coach.

When the announcement of Foster’s firing was made, OSU said that they expected to be in the Final Four every few years, clearly setting a high bar for the program in the upcoming seasons.  Considering the fact that Ohio State has only ever made one Final Four, this would seem a bit unrealistic but with the resources of OSU and the talent produced in Ohio and elsewhere in the Midwest, it is a very achievable goal.

However, to meet this goal OSU will need to find a coach that can properly take advantage of these resources and lead the program to the next level.

While women’s basketball coaching searches aren’t followed as closely as those for football and men’s basketball, some bits of information has slipped out over recent weeks.  The first bit of news was that current South Carolina coach Dawn Staley had withdrawn her name from consideration for the OSU job.  Staley has South Carolina on the rise and over her tenure the Gamecocks have gone from being a non-factor in the SEC to finishing ranked in the top 20 this season.  Despite this improvement, South Carolina hasn’t had success in the NCAA tournament and that is obviously an important criterion for Ohio State.  The most upsetting part of Staley’s announcement is the potential implication that OSU isn’t being perceived as the top tier job that it should be.

Former Texas coach Gail Goestenkors was apparently in negotiations with Ohio State at one point.

Former Texas coach Gail Goestenkors was apparently in negotiations with Ohio State at one point.

This week reports surfaced that former Duke and Texas coach Gail Goestenkors was in negotiations with Ohio State but that those talks broke down when Goestenkors discovered that she wasn’t OSU’s leading choice.    Goestenkors has one of the best coaching resumes in the country after having coached at Duke from 1992-2007 and then Texas from 2007-2012.

At Duke, Goestenkors took the Blue Devils to at least the Sweet 16 in each of her final 10 years there, recording 7 Elite Eights, 4 Final Fours, and 2 title game appearances in that stretch.  At Texas, Goestenkors couldn’t match that success, only making it out of the first round of the NCAA tournament once and finishing with a sub-.500 record in the Big 12 while never finishing better than fourth in the conference.

Goestenkors’ record at Duke would seem to make her a slam dunk choice but her disappointing performance at Texas is a cause for concern which is made worse by the fact that she retired from the Longhorns claiming that she was worn down; if she couldn’t handle the pressure and expectations at Texas it is questionable whether she could do so at Ohio State.  Things could still work out with Goestenkors and she has shown that she is the type of coach who can take a team to the next level and her year off of coaching may have restored her energy level and passion.

If the Goestenkors negotiations broke down because she wasn’t Ohio State’s leading choice, who was?  According to rumors that leading choice would be Louisville’s Jeff Walz, who just finished leading his team on a surprising run to the national title game. His Cardinals upset Baylor, Tennessee, and Cal before falling to UConn.  Walz isn’t a one year wonder and while he has only been a head coach for six years, he has already built an impressive resume.  This was Walz’s second trip to the championship game, the first came in 2009, when they also lost to Connecticut. He also lead the Cardinals to the Sweet 16 in 2008 and 2011.

Walz is a young, energetic coach who has shown that he is a talented game planner, this year’s upset of Baylor is a perfect example of that, and his teams have been very balanced, able to play both inside and out.  Unfortunately as I was writing this article it was leaked that Walz turned down Ohio State.  This was a very disappointing announcement as I think Walz would have been a slam dunk hire.

The other name that has been mentioned so far in talk about the Ohio State job is Seattle Storm coach Brian Agler.  Most of Agler’s career has been in the WNBA, though he did spend three seasons as the head coach at Kansas State.  Agler was the first head coach of the Minnesota Lynx and is currently the head coach at Seattle where he won a championship in 2010.

Personally, I don’t see the appeal of Agler as most of his experience has been in the WNBA and success in the professional ranks often doesn’t transfer to the college level as a coach has to play a very different role in college compared to the pros.  Even if OSU wants to take a gamble on a WNBA coach, Agler isn’t the answer due to the fact that during his brief stay at Kansas State he ran into trouble with the NCAA for violating rules that concerned summer camps, recruiting, and out-of-season practice. Those violations ultimately earned Kansas State two years of probation.  While Agler may have learned from this, it isn’t worth taking the risk, especially considering the beating that OSU’s image has taken recently.

Now that the NCAA tournament is over, it is time for the search to kick into high gear.  During the tournament Ohio State was unable to talk to coaches whose teams were still playing, that is no longer the case and now Gene Smith and the rest of the search committee need to move decisively and hire a top notch coach within the next few weeks so that the new coach can get started recruiting.

The state of Ohio has several top 50 recruits in the class of 2014 and landing several of them would get the Buckeyes off to a great start in terms of becoming a championship contender.  While we don’t know all the details about the coaching search and how it is being run, the news about the Goestenkors negotiations breaking down and then Walz turning down the job has raised some doubts about how well the coaching search is being handled.

Ohio State is in a golden position to hire a top flight coach and they need to take advantage of this. Hopefully the Athletic Department has more up its sleeve than what we have heard so far.

10 Comments

  1. C-DogNo Gravatar
    April 12th, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Ohio State Football? One of the top two or three jobs in the country. Ohio State Men’s Basketball? Finally a top-tier job. Ohio State Women’s Basketball? Don’t kid yourself. Bitching about hundreds of wonderful people NOT knocking the door down to coach this sport at OSU is like Illinois fans bitching during their football coaching search. You have another step to take.

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    CharlesNo Gravatar
    April 12th, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Ohio State may not be one of the top programs in the country but the head coaching position is one of the best out there and this sentiment is felt by a lot of women’s basketball fans across the country. Ohio State has very nice facilities, sure fans may have issues with the Schott being too spread out and not as loud as some arenas, but the arena and the practice facilities are some of the nicest in the countries. OSU has a huge amount of resources available and the fact that they have said that they expect to make Final Fours seem to indicate that they will make these resources available to the women’s basketball program.

    In terms of recruiting, Ohio routinely produces great talent and UConn, Tennessee, and other schools have routinely plucked top players out of the state, a coach that is a good recruiter will have a lot of high level talent in their backyard.

    OSU has also shown that they are very willing to reward their coaches. Despite his lack of postseason success, Foster was one of the top 12 or so highest paid women’s basketball coaches in the country. Combine great facilities, good nearby talent for recruiting, abundance resources, and the willingness to pay a high salary and you end up with OSU being a very good job, we can debate whether it is one of the top couple in the country but it is far above Illinois football.

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    C-DogNo Gravatar
    April 12th, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    The fact that we have great facilities, pay the coach better than we should, and have good talent in state (that we can’t keep in state), but still underperform anyway is an indicator that this is good-but-not-great job. I don’t want to fight about it, but I don’t want to see Ohio State people think we’ve been insulted because the Louisville guy didn’t knock people out of the way to get here. He just knows that Louisville is a better job. And right now, it is. And so are MANY others.

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  2. KenNo Gravatar
    April 12th, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Very good update, Charles, thank you. I don’t know that much about women’s basketball, but that won’t deter me from commenting.

    This is a ragged start to the search process. In my mind, in regards to men’s/women’s basketball programs, OSU=Louisville. I don’t see how Smith thought Walz would make the jump.

    I’d love to see negotiations re-start with Goestenkors; her stepping down from Texas is not a concern to me. IIRC, Urban Meyer stepped down due to personal reasons, yet here he is in Columbus.

    Is this search being handled by a committee, a la Meyer, or is Gene in charge?

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    C-DogNo Gravatar
    April 12th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    I think the key is, did Goestenkors learn anything? It appears Meyer did, as he appears to not be the psycho he was at the end in Florida. It seems he either realized that he didn’t need to do that, or he got people to do that for him. If Goestenkors hasn’t changed, she will no doubt burn out here, too.

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    KenNo Gravatar
    April 12th, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    That’s a good point. Meyer benefitted from a little family and life introspection. If Coach G had a similar experience, then she’s a very viable candidate.

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    Seattle4UTNo Gravatar
    April 14th, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    One year away is NOT long enough for someone who was “tired” at Texas. If anything, Coach G was “tired” of losing at Texas given how Baylor and Oklahoma (and even A&M) ran the State.

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    MaliBuckeyeNo Gravatar
    April 14th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Hmmmm… a coach who had a couple of high profile losses and took a year off because of being tired.

    Where have I heard that before?

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  3. ZNo Gravatar
    April 12th, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    So nobody wants the OSU women’s basketball job? At least not while Gene Smith is the AD. He has an inflated opinion of himself. Get rid of Gene Smith first.

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  4. BillNo Gravatar
    April 13th, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    I’ve been a fan of the women’s game since living in Connecticut during two undefeated National Championship seasons and don’t feel the OSU women’s game has ever been anywhere that level. Even though I bleed Scarlet and Gray, and attend several of the women’s games a year, the goal of being in the final four every year is just not realistic. I just don’t think the talent level in girls HS basketball is plentiful enough after supplying the UCONN’s, Tennesee’s, Stanford’s, etc., to supply the OSU’s of the world with the talent needed for consistent final four runs. The athletic dept. is looking the the gang that can’ft shoot straight in this search.

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