Coaching Changes of Interest 2023-24

The PItt search continues. The writer focuses on Duffy among others:

Pitt women’s basketball’s 2023 campaign (10-20, 3-16 ACC) came to a close after a 71-53 ACC Tournament loss to Clemson — their 13th double-digit defeat of the season.

Only two days later on March 3, University of Pittsburgh Athletic Director Heather Lyke announced that she relieved head coach Lance White of his duties. Despite the coaching change, Lyke shared kind words for White.

“Coach White has been wholeheartedly dedicated to the betterment of his student-athletes and women’s basketball at Pitt,” Lyke said.”I’m extremely grateful for his efforts and wish him only the very best moving forward, both personally and professionally.”

Lyke also reaffirmed her commitment to building a winning program at Pitt.

“In looking to the future of Pitt women’s basketball, our goal is to be a perennial contender in the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA Tournament,” Lyke said. “I am confident that Pitt’s strong combination of people, facilities and institutional excellence will attract some outstanding candidates to be the next leader of our women’s basketball program.”

Unfortunately for White, in a results-driven business, this move surprised none, as he went 44-99 with no NCAA tournament appearances in five seasons. In fairness, he also encountered a multitude of unexpected obstacles, ranging from recruiting during a pandemic to navigating NIL and the transfer portal.

The next coach will combat these same challenges and more. Forming a culture of success remains key, as the Panthers only finished one season above .500 since 2010. Identifying talent early will also prove crucial, as eight players entered the transfer portal, including three of the top five scorers from this season.

But reason for optimism prevails due to Heather Lyke’s remarkable track record in salvaging programs, as previously neglected teams like the men’s soccer, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball became national contenders under Lyke. In fact, White became the first of Lyke’s hires relieved of their duties

Lyke and company crafted a different approach this time around in the hiring process. Opposed to candidates like White, a former long-tenured assistant of Florida State, Pitt appeared to narrow its search to candidates with a proven track record of head coaching. According to Pittsburgh Sports Now, Pitt interviewed Marquette head coach Megan Duffy, UMass head coach Tory Verdi, Toledo head coach Tricia Cullop and George Washington head coach Caroline McCombs for the coaching vacancy. In my opinion, all of these coaches seem deserving and capable of helming the next iteration of Pitt women’s basketball. The decision comes down to who fits the vision of the Panthers administration.

At just 38 years old, Marquette’s Megan Duffy finds herself as one of the fastest-rising stars in the business, linked to multiple high-profile openings. Duffy’s proven she can find postseason success wherever she goes. From taking Miami (OH) to consecutive WNIT berths as head coach to recently leading the Golden Eagles to three straight tournament appearances, she’s become a staple of March.

If hired, I see Duffy becoming one of Pitt’s best, as her proven coaching prowess combined with her collegiate experience playing at Notre Dame makes her the perfect coach to compete in the ACC.

Her hiring would mark a major commitment to the Panther’s success, as they would need to buy her out of a recent extension that runs through the 2026-27 season. Additionally, Duffy makes $636,000 annually, already earning more than the $612,00 paid to White this season. However, the fact that she interviewed suggests Pitt Athletics remains serious about making significant financial investments in the program.

Tory Verdi, the long-tenured head coach of UMass, racked up an impressive 127 wins in seven seasons so far. After struggling his first three years with the Minutemen, Verdi eventually discovered success, claiming the only tournament and regular season conference championships in program history. Previously, he served as head coach of Eastern Michigan, where Lyke worked as his Athletic Director. Together they rallied the Eagles to two WNIT berths. Already familiar with Verdi, Lyke could look to revitalize a second team with the 25-year coaching veteran.

Toledo head coach Tricia Cullop owns the most extensive resumé among known candidates. Coaching for 33 years, she possesses an unrivaled wealth of knowledge. Prior to Toledo, Cullop worked as an assistant for Xavier and as head coach at Evansville. She’s had nothing but success with the Rockets, earning 448 wins and once winning the WNIT. Considering her decades of coaching success, Cullop has more than served her time and is undoubtedly deserving of an opportunity to prove her abilities in a Power 5 conference.

George Washington’s Caroline McCombs would transition easily to Pittsburgh, as she previously contributed in coaching five winning seasons here. During her tenure as an assistant coach from 2005-2010, she helped guide the Panthers to three NCAA tournament appearances, twice advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. Since leaving Pitt, McCombs coached at Stony Brook for seven seasons, becoming the winningest coach in school history while taking the Seawolves to their first NCAA tournament appearance. In her two seasons at George Washington, the Colonials formed a foundation, as both campaigns ended in top 5 conference finishes. So perhaps the answer to creating sustained success at Pitt lies in someone who’s done it before.

The coaching search just began, and many rising stars remain available for the Panthers to investigate. I understand the desire for a long-tenured coach with a proven track record. However, I’m confident younger options such as Lindy La Rocque of UNLV, Carla Berube of Princenton and Alex Simmons of Gardner Webb will excel wherever they go, as they rapidly take over the coaching scene.

The first such head coach, Lindy La Rocque of UNLV, has already led the Rebels to two NCAA tournament berths in just three seasons and win the 2021 Mountain West conference coach of the year. This past season, her Rebels earned the 17th-best scoring margin in the NCAA. With an already impressive resume at just 33 years old, the sky holds her limits.

Another such name, Princeton’s Carla Berube, has quickly made her mark. In just three seasons, her Tigers attained a remarkable 75-12 record, making the second round of the NCAA tournament twice. Berube’s resumé speaks for itself and, in my opinion, should put her on the shortlist for all coaching openings this off-season.

Lastly, Alex Simmons deserves more recognition for the job she’s done as Gardner Webb’s head coach. As a player, she won two national championships at Tennessee — experiences that seemingly translated to her coaching. In four seasons as head coach, she’s created a basketball culture, going 89-57. Her hard work culminated this season when the Bulldogs went undefeated in conference play, earning their second NCAA tournament berth in team history.

In all, Pitt has no rush to make their decision, and these potential candidates likely represent a very small fraction of the names the Panthers intend to interview. Although this is frustrating for fans of the team, it suggests Heather Lyke and company intend to exercise patience, ensuring they get this momentous hire correct

The PItt search continues. The writer focuses on Duffy among others:

Seven Pitt players entered the transfer portal.


Seven Pitt players entered the transfer portal.

Mark Coyle has been criticized in his hiring practices and decisions (sometimes rightfully so), but his trend towards moving quickly is respectful to the players who are dealing with change.

It feels like the Pitt opening has been there a long time and I can imagine that players are frustrated.

Mark Kellogg named West Virginia head coach replacing Plitzuweit.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WDTV) - West Virginia University Vice President and Director of Athletics Wren Baker has named WVU’s next women’s basketball head coach.

Baker has named Mark Kellogg as the seventh women’s basketball head coach in the program’s history.

Kellogg is the sixth winningest active Division I women’s basketball coach in the country by winning percentage and brings a 445-120 (.788) career record to Morgantown.

He has spent the last eight seasons at Stephen F. Austin where he compiled a 195-55 (.780) record with seven consecutive seasons of 23 wins or more.

Mark Coyle has been criticized in his hiring practices and decisions (sometimes rightfully so), but his trend towards moving quickly is respectful to the players who are dealing with change.

It feels like the Pitt opening has been there a long time and I can imagine that players are frustrated.
Welcome to Pitt, Joan Gabel!

Mark Kellogg named West Virginia head coach replacing Plitzuweit.

After a month as a Lynx assistant, former MSU star Kristin Haynie leaves to become head coach at Central Michigan.

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich.—Former CMU assistant coach and Mid-Michigan legend Kristin Haynie is the new head women's basketball coach at Central Michigan University, Zyzelewski Family Associate Vice President/Director of Athletics Amy Folan announced this morning. Haynie becomes the 13th head coach in Chippewa women's basketball history.

"It's exciting to have Kristin leading our program," Folan said. "She is a Michigan girl that learned basketball here. Basketball has taken her to a Big Ten Championship, an NCAA Final Four, a WNBA championship, and all around the world. She is part of the Sue Guevara and Suzy Merchant coaching tree. As two women who have had a tremendous impact on this program and the game nationally, Kristin is a perfect fit for our student-athletes at Central Michigan. It's nice to have her back home in Mount Pleasant to lead our program."

"We are excited to get a coach of Kristin's caliber," Folan said. "We want to express our gratitude to the Minnesota Lynx. The Lynx have been the long-standing gold standard of the WNBA. This hire could not have happened without their support and flexibility."

"We are delighted to welcome Coach Haynie back to CMU," said CMU president Bob Davies. "In our conversations, it was immediately clear that she shares our commitment to helping our student-athletes achieve a degree on one hand and a championship ring on the other. I know she will push our amazing team to excel on the court, in the classroom, and in the community."

"I am thrilled to be here," Haynie said. "What a great opportunity to be coaching in my home state and in this incredible Mount Pleasant community. I want to thank Amy Folan, Dr. Robert Davies, and the rest of the university for making this dream come true. I am excited to get to know the players and invest in them on and off the court and to continue to bring championships to this amazing program."

Haynie, who has won at every level of basketball, takes over a Central Michigan Women's Basketball program that has made seven NCAA Tournament appearances (1983, 1984, 2013, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021), won five Mid-American Conference Tournament titles (1983, 1984, 2013, 2018, and 2021), captured eight MAC regular season overall/division championships (1983-84, 1984-85, 2013-14 West Division, 2015-16 West Division, 2016-17 Overall/West Division, 2017-18 Overall/West Division, 2018-19 Overall/West Division, 2019-20 Overall/West Division), and advanced to five Women's National Invitation Tournament appearances (2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017).

In her previous stint at Central Michigan as an assistant coach under Sue Guevara (2014-17), Haynie helped lead the Chippewas to the 2017 Mid-American Conference championship with guard Presley Hudson earning MAC Freshman of the Year honors. CMU also claimed the 2016 MAC West Championship. During her time in Mount Pleasant, the Chippewas totaled a 58-38 combined overall record and 36-18 league record.

Haynie spent the last month as an assistant coach with the Women's National Basketball Association's Minnesota Lynx. She recently completed the 2022-23 season as an assistant coach at her alma mater Michigan State University, where she spent the past four seasons under head coach and Central Michigan graduate Suzy Merchant.

The Spartan legend has cultivated strong coaching ties in the state of Michigan as she came back to East Lansing after working as a basketball skills trainer in western and central Michigan. She worked as a mentor to inspire and motivate athletes to reach their full potential and help them realize their impact off the court.

Haynie began her coaching career as an assistant at Eastern Michigan from 2012-14.

As a point guard, Haynie had a stellar collegiate career at Michigan State, ranking as the career leader in assists (574) and steals (346). She finished her career ranked eighth in MSU history in scoring (1,199 points) and is still 15th in career scoring. At the time of her graduation, she was just the fourth player in Big Ten history to reach career totals of 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals. She is also the Michigan State leader in single-season steals with 117. The point guard is still one of just three Spartan women's basketball players to record a triple-double and became the first woman to complete a triple double (points, assists, and steals) in the NCAA Tournament. In 2005, she guided the Spartans to a 33-win season, the Big Ten Championship, the program's first-ever Final Four appearance, and berth in the NCAA Championship Game.

Just weeks after the 2005 National Championship game, Haynie was selected with the ninth pick in the 2005 WNBA Draft by the Sacramento Monarchs. She helped the Monarchs capture the WNBA title in her first season as a pro. She played in 160 games during her WNBA career, spending five seasons in the WNBA from 2005-09 with the Monarchs, Atlanta Dream, and Detroit Shock. During her stint in the WNBA, Haynie played professionally in Italy, Lithuania, Russia, and Greece.

Haynie was inducted into the Michigan State University Hall of Fame in 2017 and the Greater Lansing Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

A native of Mason, Mich., Haynie graduated from Michigan State with a degree in family community service in 2005

After a month as a Lynx assistant, former MSU star Kristin Haynie leaves to become head coach at Central Michigan.

Can't blame her for that move. Her connections in the region and Central Michigan's general commitment to women's basketball make this a good hire for both parties.

Wisconsin associate head coach, Scott Merritt, takes the head coaching job at Gardner-Webb.

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – Gardner-Webb University announced Saturday that Scott Merritt has been named head women's basketball coach.

A press conference to introduce Merritt will be held next week in Tucker Student Center on campus. Details will be announced at a later date.

"I am excited to welcome Scott Merritt as the next Head Coach of GWU's Women's Basketball team," said GWU President Dr. William Downs. "Coach Merritt has already impressed me as a tenacious competitor and as an effective communicator; equally important, he understands the mission of a university that wants its student-athletes to be truly outstanding in all that they do. With Coach Merritt's leadership, Gardner-Webb's Women's Basketball program can now elevate to the next level by winning games in the NCAA Tournament. That makes this another great day to be a Runnin' Bulldog!"

Merritt comes to Gardner-Webb from the University of Wisconsin, where he has served as Associate Head Coach since 2021.

"The members of our women's basketball team asked me to ensure our next head coach was a confident and consistent winner, was a strong cultural fit, and had the ability to help them find opportunities to play professional basketball worldwide after graduation," said Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. Andrew T. Goodrich. "Coach Merritt is all of these things and more. He was a championship caliber player at Marquette, including making it to the 2003 Final Four. As an assistant coach he helped lead the top-10 ranked Golden Eagles to three Big East Conference Championships and played nine seasons of professional basketball all over the world.

"After conversations with some of the best college basketball coaches in the country and hearing his vision and strategies to lead the program, it became clear to me that Scott is an incredible coach, teacher, recruiter, and leader who has the knowledge, skills, ability, and passion to take this program to the next level."

This past season, Merritt helped the Badgers to their highest Big Ten win total since 2010-11 and the program's highest Big Ten finish in 11 seasons. A late-season win over 12th-ranked Michigan gave Wisconsin a first-round bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

"I am thrilled to be the new Head Coach at a faith-based University that's so rich in tradition," said Merritt. "The vision and leadership of Dr. Downs and Dr. Goodrich, coupled by the support of the campus and surrounding community are what make this such an exciting opportunity. I cannot wait to get to work!"

Merritt was an assistant coach at Illinois during the 2020-2021 season and spent the previous six seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Marquette University.

During his time at Marquette, Merritt helped the Golden Eagles steadily improve. Marquette reached 25 wins by his third season on staff, a season that was capped by the school's first ever Big East championship and the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011.

He helped the Golden Eagles to three Big East titles during his time on the sidelines. In addition to the 2017 tournament championship, Marquette won regular season titles in 2018 and 2019. The program also notched four consecutive 20-win seasons, including a school-record 27 wins in 2018-19 – when Marquette soared as high as No. 8 in the Associated Press national poll.

Marquette reached three consecutive NCAA Tournaments and were poised to make a fourth appearance in 2020 before the event was canceled.

Merritt recruited and coached two Big East Players of the Year – Allazia Blockton (2018) and Natisha Hiedeman (2019). One of his post players, Erika Davenport, finished her career with more than 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds – becoming just the fourth woman in school history to do so.

Prior to joining the women's staff at Marquette, Merritt was an assistant coach with the Menomonee Falls (Wisc.) High boy's basketball team.

Merritt played professional basketball in Italy, Puerto Rico, Ukraine, Cyprus, Turkey, Japan and South Korea internationally from 2004-2013 and played in the NBDL with the Columbus (Ga.) Riverdragons, Austin (Texas) Toros and Tulsa (Okla.) 66ers during that same span.

He was runner up for NBDL Rookie of the Year in 2005 with Columbus and was a second-team All-NBDL selection with Austin in 2006.

A 6-foot-10 center at Marquette, Merritt emerged as a force down low for the Golden Eagles under head coach Tom Crean. He was a four-year letterwinner and finished his career with 1,049 points, 697 rebounds and 113 blocks – all which rank among the school's best.

Merritt finished as the program's all-time leader with 126 career games played and helped the Golden Eagles to a Final Four appearance as a junior in 2003 – averaging 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in a lineup that included future NBA superstar Dwayne Wade.

He bumped those averages to 11.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game as a senior. Merritt started 63 games over his final two seasons with Marquette.

In the Final Four loss to Kansas, Merritt played 24 minutes and recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Seven of those boards came on the offensive end of the floor.

Merritt is a 2004 graduate of Marquette's College of Communications. He and his wife, Ashley, have four children – Laila, Isaiah, Mariah and Sienna.

Gardner-Webb is coming off a school and conference-record 29 wins, Big South Conference regular season and tournament titles and the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011.

The Runnin' Bulldogs were the first team in Big South history to post an 18-0 league mark and won 21 games in a row heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Gardner-Webb was ranked as high as No. 9 in the Mid-Major Top 25 this past season – which is the highest mark in school and league history

Former Indiana associate head coach, Glenn Box, named Miami of Ohio head coach following the poorly handled dismissal of DeUnna Hendrix

OXFORD, Ohio – Miami University Director of Athletics David Sayler has announced Glenn Box as the 10th head coach in Miami women's basketball history. Box spent the past seven seasons with the Indiana women's basketball program, the last four as associate head coach.

"I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity which has been granted to me," said Box. "Competing for championships while fostering an environment of doing things the right way will be the vision moving forward."

During Box's time with the Hoosiers, they won 20 or more games in all seven of his seasons and earned seven postseason berths, including five NCAA Tournament appearances. In those NCAA appearances, the Hoosiers have been to the second round all five times, made two Sweet Sixteens (2021, 2022) and advanced to the Elite Eight in 2020-21. This past season, the Hoosiers went 28-4, earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. IU added a Big Ten regular season championship (first in 40 years) and climbed as high as No. 2 in both national polls this past season.

Under Box's tutelage, 11 Hoosier guards have earned a total of 16 All-Big Ten honors including four-straight first team selections for Grace Berger (2019-23). Berger became the program's first WNBA first round selection in 2023, as she went seventh overall to the Indiana Fever and was a six-time All-American honorable mention in her five-year collegiate career.

Box helped guide the Hoosiers' defense, a calling card of the program. In 2022-23, they led the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (38.7%) and scoring defense (62.1 ppg.). Mackenzie Holmes became the program's first Defensive Player of the Year, and for the first time ever, IU had two players on the All-Big Ten defensive team in Holmes and Chloe Moore-McNeil.

"A huge welcome to Glenn, his wife Leah and their entire family to Miami," said Sayler. "Coach Box quickly rose to the top of our search due to his influential role with the current historic run at Indiana, experience within the MAC and prior head coaching experience as well. I am very excited for our future under his leadership and direction."

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