Coaching carousel impacts recruits
Bolingbrook (Ill.) senior teammates Dalacy Anderson, Cabriana Capers and Nia Moore have more in common than just their fourth-ranked Raider jerseys. Anderson, who signed with George Washington in the fall, Capers, who signed with Auburn, and Moore, who signed with Illinois, all find themselves committed to programs without head coaches.
"All of them picked the schools because of what the schools offered, but the coaches played a big part," Bolingbrook head coach Tony Smith said. "They were all a little bit down about it."
Auburn's Nell Fortner resigned as head coach of the Tigers after eight seasons at the helm, leaving Capers, a 6-foot-1 forward, coachless. Similarly, the terminations of Jolette Law at Illinois, after five seasons, and Mike Bozeman at George Washington, after four years, have left Moore, a 6-3 forward, and Anderson, a 6-2 forward, with uncertain futures.
"It's just difficult because they all built relationships with those coaches," Smith said. "That's tough to do over again."
Retirement of long-time coaches, such as Mississippi State's Sharon Fanning-Otis (17 seasons), North Dakota's Gene Roebuck (25 seasons) and Wagner's Gela Mikalauskas (18 seasons), has some impact on the early surge of change, but more prevalent so far are resignations and terminations. In addition to Auburn, George Washington and Illinois, Charleston, Georgia Southern, Hawaii, Louisiana-Lafayette, Northwestern State, Ole Miss, Saint Louis, Sienna and Tennessee State are all going in new directions.
Officially, signed players have one guaranteed scholarship year at the school they've signed with, but many of these players, as Smith affirmed with players he's had go through this, have the fear that the new coach may not want them. The college sports cliché of being the old coach's player is never more prevalent than when athletic directors break out the axe.
Making the process even more difficult is the truncated timetable the propsects who wish to be released from their letters of intent will have to make another decision. Gone are the years of getting to know the previous staffs and in place are a few months to figure things out and hope that these prospects or any of the dozens in the same situation don't become transfers a year from now.
"We all thought (Law) would at least have one more year and with the class coming in, they could turn it into three or four more," Smith said of Moore and her decision to sign with Illinois.
But with salaries often reaching into the mid- to high-six-figure ranges in BCS conferences, contract extensions are far from automatic, making recruiting difficult for both the coaches nearing the end of their terms as well as the recruits who dare to put their faith in coaches who are on the hot seat.
However, there are some examples of players making decisions for reasons other than relationships with the coaches, and their commitment can remain resolute in spite of the change.
Chadarryl Clay of Chattanooga, Tenn., is one of two players ranked in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100 from the 2012 class being affected by the early rash of coaching changes. She joins Capers and TraCee Nicole Tanner as Auburn signees dealing with the change.
"I'm committed to Auburn, and I'm eager to see who the new coach is," Clay said. "Auburn has a great 2012 class coming in and I'm looking forward to playing with the new and old players."
Another reason Clay, who is in love with the campus as well as excited about Auburn's pharmacy program, is so positive about the future is that she already feels like a part of the team.
"I have a really good relationship with the players on the team," Clay said. "I had a family relationship with the coaches too. I just feel I signed so I'm already on the team."
Clay has taken it upon herself to reach out to the other Auburn signees and Nariah Taylor, a four-star post who is verbally committed and was expected to sign this spring. Her teammates and their families are expecting to meet with the new coach shortly after one is named.
Ole Miss signee Destinie Gibbs, a 5-foot-11 sharp-shooting guard from Decatur, Ga., is also feeling the uncertainty.
"With the coaching change and me signing on with Ole Miss, it's been tough to really focus on what will be next for me, especially because I am trying to win a state championship," the four-star rated senior at McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.) said. "At the end of my season I will sit with my family and try to figure out what will be best. I liked the coaches and they were a big reason I picked Ole Miss. So as of now we just don't know what the next step is."
Shahana Zeigler of Long Beach, Calif., who signed with Hawaii, is dealing with the termination of head coach Dana Takahara-Dias after three seasons leading the Rainbow Wahine.
"The change will not affect her," her club team coach, George Quintero of the Cal Storm Team Taurasi, said in a text message. "She is 100 percent committed to UH."
Joining the ranks of the uncertain is Sylvana Okde of Missouri City, Texas. The three-star point guard is looking at her options, according to her club team coach, George Washington of DFW Elite-Washington.
Change is in the air this time of year, and more is sure to come for both coaches and players.
Keil Moore also contributed to this report.
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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. He is a member of the McDonald's All-American team selection committee. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keil Moore is a contributor and national recruiting analyst for ESPN HoopGurlz. He is also the Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com National Scouting Report - a division of Peach State Basketball, Inc. Moore has been involved in the community since 2007 as a recruiting analyst and trainer. He can be reached at email@example.com.