UCI has new Molly

UC Irvine went to a notorious college party school to find its next women’s basketball coach.

Now the Anteaters are counting on Molly Goodenbour to take them to the big dance for the first time.

Goodenbour, a successful coach at Chico State the last two years, took over at UCI Monday. UCI went on a nationwide search for its seventh women’s basketball coach in school history.

Mike Izzi, the school’s athletic director, is expecting a big return in his latest hire.

“I look forward to her developing the UC Irvine program into a Big West Conference and national contender,” Izzi said in a statement.

Bob Olson, the school’s associate director in charge of media relations, said Izzi was not available for comment as he was on vacation.

Wherever Izzi was Monday, he knows the program is further away from becoming a contender in anything than he was from his office.

Keeping games competitive is a start for UCI.

The 36-year-old Goodenbour takes over a program coming off a dismal season in which it went 7-24, 3-13 in the Big West Conference.

The Anteaters turn to a different Molly after Molly Tuter resigned in May after four rough seasons.

Last season, Goodenbour led Chico State to a 28-6 record, winning almost as many games as Tuter did during her time (30-81 record) at UCI.

Goodenbour achieved a lot in her short stint at Chico State, compiling a 52-11 record.

In her first season, she led the Wildcats to the NCAA Division II Championship Tournament Sweet 16. This past season, Chico State matched its single-season record for wins.

With the move up to Division I, the victories won’t come as easy. UCI hasn’t reached double-digit victories since the 2002-03 season, the school’s last winning season.

“It’s pretty late, but I feel fortunate to have this opportunity and I’m going to try to build something special here,” said Goodenbour, who was the head assistant at the University of San Francisco from 2005-06 and head coach at Santa Rosa Junior College from 2003-05, when she went 69-21 with two Bay Valley Conference titles.

“It’s going to be a challenge. I don’t think I would’ve taken this job if I didn’t feel I could turn this into a successful program.”

Goodenbour has a lot to learn with so little time. The season starts in November.

She will be on campus today and plans to meet with players in the coming days. But she’s not sure if the 10 players with eligibility will return to play.

As of now, Goodenbour hasn’t formed a coaching staff.

The one person she knows well at UCI is Izzi, who became the school’s athletic director last December.

The two crossed paths before the hiring process. They spent time together at Stanford.

It makes sense why Izzi called Molly, who’s from Iowa, “a proven winner with championship experience.”

Goodenbour starred as a shooting guard from 1989 to ’93, winning two NCAA titles and contributing to Stanford’s impressive 114-16 record during that time.

It was back then that Izzi began his 16-year involvement with Stanford’s athletic department.

“I was familiar with him those days as one of the developmental people at Stanford,” said Goodenbour, who’s keenly aware that Izzi is counting on her to change the atmosphere at UCI from losing to winning.

If it happens, the Anteaters will be closer to dancing come March.


DAVID CARRILLO PEÑALOZA may be reached at (714) 966-4612 or at david.carrillo@latimes.com.

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