Another busy week in the coaching carousel
Van Chancellor takes over at LSU Joanne Boyle says no thanks to her alma mater, Duke, and will stay at Cal Mickie DeMoss leaves Kentucky because she needs to "step back" Curt Miller gets a restructured contract at Bowling Green all in another eventful day of "As the Coaching World Turns."
Whew. A lot has already taken place (like Kevin Borseth, who changed his mind about Colorado two years ago, this time really leaving Wisconsin-Green Bay for Michigan) and there's a lot left to happen in the women's basketball coaching world. Like, for instance, is Florida ever going to hire anybody? Wasn't that the first of these "big-name-school" jobs to come open, back in February when it was announced that Carolyn Peck was out as soon as the season ended?
What's up with at Penn State? Who does Coach K, er, Duke decide to pursue now? Will we ever hear from Pokey Chatman?
We'll start with LSU. The news that Chancellor was the hire obviously didn't surprise anyone; it was pretty clear not too long after Chatman's resignation that he was the main target. It might not exactly be coincidental that Chancellor, who will be 64 in September, is quite different than Chatman in terms of, shall we say well, some obvious things. Race, gender, age.
The last five weeks or so at LSU have been difficult and bizarre, to say the least. It started with the ill-conceived news release on March 7 saying Chatman was "seeking other opportunities" but would coach the Lady Tigers through the NCAA Tournament. That was instantly followed by the rumor hurricane. The next day, there was a release that Chatman's resignation was effective immediately.
Chatman has not been heard from since, not even through a release or statement. Citing LSU athletic department sources, ESPN.com's Wright Thompson reported that Chatman had an alleged sexual relationship with a player when she was likely still an LSU assistant. Then, this season, LSU assistant coach Carla Berry told university officials about that relationship. The athletic department and lawyers got involved and it has all left everything as clear as mud.
It's up to Chatman to decide whether she'll explain her version publicly. But LSU moves on, and I guess some folks will see Chancellor, a Naismith Hall of Famer, as a "safe" hire, whatever that means. We know he has done this before, going 439-154 with Ole Miss before becoming the biggest "name" among collegiate coaches to leave those ranks when the WNBA started. Chancellor's Houston teams won four WNBA titles.
When he stepped down from his job with the Comets in January, he gave different reasons for the departure.
He told the Associated Press, "I just wanted to see about going in another direction in my life. There comes a time when you have to decide about other things -- about your family, about your wife, about your children."
He reiterated wanting to spend time with his family to Houston television station KRIV, and also said, "With new ownership coming in, I want to step back and allow the new owners to take their own direction."
Then he told USA Today's Oscar Dixon that his decision to leave the Comets had nothing to do with the sale of the franchise.
"I've just had enough and wanted to reflect on just which direction do I want to go in," Chancellor was quoted as saying then. "This may be hard for people to believe, but I've rekindled my desire to return to college coaching. I know that's a real shocker."
Maybe it's best explained as a mix of all those things. At any rate, Chancellor said Wednesday that he had gotten very antsy away from coaching. The LSU position should be a comfortable transition for him. The fact that Chancellor is retaining Bob Starkey, who as acting head coach led LSU to its fourth consecutive Final Four, is a good move. Starkey can do most of the heavy lifting with breaking down tape and devising strategy. That's what he enjoys the most about coaching anyway, which he made clear during his very brief but successful time as head coach. So he will be a good fit with Chancellor, who enjoys being the master of ceremonies.
As of late Wednesday, Starkey was officially listed as the only holdover on the new staff, his photo right below Chancellor's on LSU's Web site. Senior associate athletic director Herb Vincent told ESPN.com's Elizabeth Merrill that Chancellor has yet to sit down with the rest of the staff -- Berry and fellow assistant coaches Christie Sides and director of basketball operations Joe Carvalhido -- to discuss the future.
Sides played two years for Chancellor before he went to the WNBA and she went to Louisiana Tech. Clearly, the most intriguing aspect of this will be whether Berry is retained.
So one SEC job is filled, but another one opened as DeMoss said, "After 30 years of coaching, I just want to step back and reassess what I want to do for the rest of my life."
OK but just last summer, DeMoss signed a five-year deal with Kentucky. What changed? Hard to say beyond the vague reasons DeMoss gave. Her statement, "I would never rule out a return to coaching again," just makes it all the more hard to guess. Does she have something else lined up? Does she expect something to open up and wants to be ready to go? Or is it really just an "I don't know about tomorrow" crossroads for her?
DeMoss stepped away from being a head coach before -- she ran the Florida program from 1979 to '83, then spent two seasons as an Auburn assistant and 18 at Tennessee before taking over at Kentucky.
Boyle also alluded to not knowing exactly what tomorrow will bring -- of course, no one really does -- but in her case she's sure where she wants to be, and that's Cal. In a teleconference Wednesday afternoon, Boyle said she knew a lot of people would be really surprised by her decision to not take over at her alma mater, where she was offered the job.
"Yeah, it's funny, when I left Duke five years ago [to take over at Richmond], I looked back [at Cameron Indoor Stadium] and said, 'I wonder if I'll ever be back here again,' " Boyle said. "You know people have dream schools and dream jobs it was. [But] timing is everything in everybody's life.
"What are you living your life for, what are you doing? I love living here, and want to see: How far can we take this thing?"
Boyle said in the time since her recovery from a near-fatal brain hemorrhage in November 2001, she has evaluated her life and her goals differently. That makes sense. A native of Philadelphia, Boyle is about eight months younger than her former boss at Duke, Gail Goestenkors, and said she talked a lot to the new Texas coach during this process of considering going back to the Blue Devils. Boyle stressed that she thinks Duke is a "great job" for somebody.
But it's worth noting that whoever that "somebody" is obviously should know who runs the show at Duke: Coach K. The last time Duke hired a women's basketball head coach was in 1992, just after Mike Krzyzewski's men's program had won its second consecutive NCAA title. At that time, the women's program was barely an aphid -- if that -- to the men's program's elephant.
The Duke women's program has come a long, long way but the person responsible for that, Goestenkors, is gone. I'm not trying to be Chicken Little about what might happen now at Duke. But Duke women's basketball fans need to be in high-alert mode. The next few weeks could be very telling.
Finally, Wednesday was a big day for Miller, who took Bowling Green to the Sweet 16 this season and had got a restructured six-year deal (through 2013). I thought Miller and Temple's Dawn Staley would be two very highly sought-after coaches with all these openings, but for now they are staying put.
Still, there are a lot more moves to be made. So stay tuned.Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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