Old Dominion’s new women’s basketball coach is unlikely to match the 20 NCAA tournament appearances and 17 consecutive Colonial Athletic Association championships authored by former big whistle Wendy Larry. But the Lady Monarchs’ new leader should be able to elevate the program above the mediocrity that defined the past three seasons and forced Larry’s departure.
So eight days into his coaching search, where might athletic director Wood Selig stand?
Understandably, Selig speaks only in generalities. No need to jar potential big-fish candidates with public pronouncements.
And given its facilities, resources and national-championship pedigree, ODU is among the few programs outside the six power conferences that can make a play for a marquee name.
That doesn’t mean Selig will land such a catch. The timing is not ideal — most basketball job-swapping transpires in March and April — and contracts could complicate matters.
Plus, successful searches require nuance, discretion and luck. See Miami and North Carolina State men’s basketball for polar opposites on those counts.
But here’s guessing Selig will try, as well he should, to hire someone with sterling credentials.
Some possibilities include:
* Nancy Lieberman would bring instant name recognition. She’s the greatest player in ODU history, a pioneer, icon and 1996 inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame. That’s the all-encompassing hall, mind you, the one that includes Jordan, Wilt, Russell, Magic and Bird.
Lieberman, 52, coached the WNBA’s Detroit Shock and this season led the NBA Development League’s Texas Legends. That’s right, she coached men.
Lieberman lacks college experience, but if willing to spend the countless hours, certainly she could recruit. The question becomes, can ODU pry her from Dallas, the base of her myriad pursuits, including the Nancy Lieberman Foundation?
* Anne Donovan preceded Lieberman, her ODU teammate, into the Hall of Fame by a year. She lacks Lieberman’s charisma and Q-rating, but she’s by far the more accomplished coach.
A former ODU assistant under Larry, Donovan coached the Seattle Storm to the 2004 WNBA championship and the United States to the 2008 Olympic gold medal. This past season she took over a Seton Hall program that hasn’t reached the NCAA tournament since 1995, and the Pirates went 8-22.
Would Donovan be willing to leave after just one season at Seton Hall? Might she resent Selig for nudging Larry out the door?
* The best hire would be Terri Williams-Flournoy. But is the first coach to guide Georgetown to consecutive NCAA tournaments, one with a stacked roster for next season, ready to return home to Hampton Roads?
That would be the draw. Williams-Flournoy is a Hampton native and sister of AAU basketball magnate Boo Williams. She recruits the region effectively, witness the presence of Sugar Rodgers (King's Fork High) and Samisha Powell (Princess Anne) on the Hoyas’ roster.
But superior facilities aside, is ODU a comparable job? Georgetown has reached the last two NCAA tournaments and lost to Connecticut 68-63 in the Sweet 16 in March. The Hoyas return four starters, and Williams-Flournoy signed a five-year contract extension in 2010.
A pipe-dream hire? Perhaps. But Selig should at least explore the possibility.
Absent a “wow” hire, Selig has plenty of options.
He could comb the ACC, Big East and Southeastern Conference for established coaches weary of fighting perennials Duke, UConn and Tennessee.
He could consider lower-level coaches with area connections such as Radford’s Tajama Abraham Ngongba (Kecoughtan High) and Elon’s Karen Barefoot (Menchville High and Christopher Newport University). They have been at their respective jobs for three seasons and posted winning records this year.
Selig said Wednesday he is “nowhere close to naming anyone.” Guessing that changes in the next week.
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