Thursday, March 29, 2012
Source: Texas, Karen Aston talk
ESPN.com news services
AUSTIN, Texas -- North Texas women's basketball coach Karen Aston met with Texas officials for two days this week about the vacant Longhorns job, sources told the Longhorn Network.
Aston met with Texas women's athletic director Chris Plonsky and university president William Powers on campus Tuesday and Wednesday, sources said.
Former Texas coach Gail Goestenkors resigned March 20 after the Longhorns failed to advance past the first round of the NCAA tournament for the fourth year in a row.
Aston, 48, is a former Texas assistant (1998-2006), who has spent the past five seasons as the head coach at Charlotte and North Texas. She's the only coach to come to Austin for an interview and appears to be a frontrunner with her background as a successful head coach with strong ties for the Longhorns.
Aston was a top recruiter for the Longhorns during a stretch when Texas made the Final Four (2003) and advanced to the NCAA tournament round of 16 two other times. During her time as an assistant, Aston signed seven high school All-Americans.
She left the Longhorns to take the job at Charlotte, where the 49ers won 86 games in her four seasons and the Atlantic 10 tournament title in 2009 for the first time in school history. She went to North Texas in 2011 and the Mean Green finished 15-16 last season in her first year.
If hired at Texas, Aston would take over a program aching to return to the elite among women's college basketball. The Longhorns haven't made it past the first round of the NCAA tournament since 2008 and haven't won a Big 12 title since 2004.
Texas still has to be considered one of the top jobs in the country. The school was among the pioneers of top-flight women's college athletics and the basketball program has been a beacon of that legacy. The 1985-86 Longhorns were the first undefeated women's national champion.
Texas pays well -- Goestenkors was making $1.25 million per year -- sits in the middle of some of the most fertile high school recruiting grounds in the country, and has passionate fans and an administration that supports women's sports.
Hall of Fame coach Jody Conradt retired in 2007 with 900 career victories and Texas quickly zeroed in on Goestenkors, who had led Duke to four Final Fours and 10 years in a row of reaching the NCAA tournament round of 16.
Goestenkors never delivered that kind of success at Texas but never had a losing season. Despite a strong vote of confidence from Plonsky just days earlier, Goestenkors quit, citing fatigue and a need to step away from basketball. She was 102-64 at Texas and 498-163 overall over in 20 seasons as a head coach.
Goestenkors had two years left on a seven-year contract and needed to stay only until April 1 to get an automatic one-year extension.
While Texas floundered, its chief rivals just kept getting better. Baylor, which won the national championship in 2005, has remained one of the top programs and is the Final Four as the overall top seed in this season's NCAA tournament. Texas A&M won the national championship last season.
Goestenkors acknowledged making her share of mistakes, particularly in recruiting. Although she was able to recruit Texas well at Duke, she never matched that success with the Longhorns.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.