The Flashes’ next head coach could be…

So who’s the new women’s basketball coach going to be?

Of course we don’t know. I’m pretty sure Athletic Director Joel Nielsen, who will do the hiring, doesn’t know.

But I can offer some thoughts on the kind of person I’d be looking for, along with a few names.

The criteria:

1A. A successful head coach at a school in a less-prestigious conference.

or

1B. A top assistant at a school in a more-prestigious conference.

The MAC was 11th in conference RPI this semester. So we’re looking at a conference that’s say, ranked 14th or below. That’s includes the Horizon League (Cleveland State, Youngstown State), America East (Albany, Maine), Summit (Indiana-Purdue at Indianapolis or Fort Wayne, Western Illinois), Missouri Valley (Indiana State, Southern Illinois). I mention those leagues specific for reasons we’ll hit later. Here’s a full list of all the Division I conferences.

And there are top Division II schools, a couple of them relatively close by. Here’s the current top 25 in Division II.

We all know the more prestigious conferences. The Big Ten is most obvious — KSU has hired a lot of Big Ten assistants as head coaches over the years. After that, maybe the Big East, Atlantic 10, American Athletic.

Akron’s Jodi Kest fits the first description. She was a successful head coach at Division II Ashland. O’Banion fits the second; she was the top assistant at Memphis.

And, of course, there are coaches with Midwest roots who went away and might come back. Kent State football coach Paul Haynes is a good example of that. He was an assistant at Arkansas when he was hired.

2. A coach in roughly the same recruiting area. The MAC is not a national conference. A coach from Oregon would be starting almost from scratch in building contacts among high school coaches. Maybe that’s less important because so much recruiting is done at summer camps, which have players from all over the country. But if you look at the hiring patterns in the MAC, they’re largely neighborhood hires.

3. A coach who’s strong on X’s and O’s. Neither Kent’s offensive nor defensive strategy has been effective. Part of that may be personnel, but maybe a different coach can bring a system that works with this set of players, some of whom are quite good.

4. Every coach has to be a recruiter, but it’s less immediately urgent at Kent State because the Flashes have already signed their lone incoming freshman. They’ll likely have only one senior starter (Larissa Lurken) next season.

5. Does the new coach need to be female? I think KSU would like her to be. But Nielsen has hired men to coach women’s golf and volleyball.

Names?

The most obvious to me is Youngstown State coach John Barnes. He’s finishing his third year there, about the time an ambitious coach may start to look to move. He’s 55-39, took YSU to the WNIT last season and has had them ranked at times in the Mid Major top 25. He’s previously the top assistant at Wisconsin Green Bay, one of the nation’s premiere Mid Majors, and was head coach at Division II power Michigan Tech for seven years.

Would KSU be too much of a lateral move? Barnes’ predecessor at YSU was Bob Bolden, now head coach of MAC champion Ohio University. He went to Ohio after three seasons at YSU.

Wright State coach Mike Bradbury has been there five years and has a top 25 Mid-Major team. He previous was head coach at Moorhead State and before that was an assistant at Cincinnati and Xavier.

Like Youngstown State, Wright State is an Horizon League school.

The best Division II school in the area is still Ashland, which is 27-1 and ranked fifth in the country. But Robyn Fralick just finished her first year as head coach there after being the team’s top assistant. That may be too little early to move. There are a lot of good Division II teams in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. I hope we at least look there.

Who knows, of course, if any of those people would want the job.

I don’t remotely enough about Big Ten women’s basketball to guess at top assistants ready to take their own team. Ohio State is very good. Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant is a former Eastern Michigan coach and likely would speak well of the MAC to her assistants. Maryland coach Brenda Freese actually was a Kent State assistant in 1994-95.

Big Ten assistants can be paid much more than MAC head coaches. Kent State coaches tend to be among the lowest paid in the conference. How much can KSU afford/be willing to pay?

Kent State might be an attractive job for a coach trying to make a quick splash. There are good players here – Jordan Korinek and Larissa Lurken could start for any team in the conference. There will be four scholarships open after next season, so there’s room for a good recruiting class. If a new coach could find a way to make the team click, he or she could be very successful. That’s what Boldon did at Ohio. His team went from a doormat as low as Kent State to conference champion in two years. And every starter on his first championship team was recruited by the previous coach.

Sometimes strange things can happen in a coaching search. Bob Lindsay, who won more games than any men’s or women’s basketball coach in MAC history, was actually the head lacrosse coach at Holy Cross when Kent State hired him in 1988.

And of course almost no one in Kent had heard of Danielle O’Banion four years ago. But in researching this article, I found a 2012 story listing top Division I assistants ready to move up. She was No. 24.

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7 comments

  1. goldenflash101

    I think you said it all. In 1988 we hired a lacrosse coach and he is the best women’s coach in Kent history and will be for a long time. Then in 2012 we hire the 24th best assistant coach and she wins about 5 games a year. Coaches are like recruits. You need to see them before you know what you have.

    I’m sure you had some serious doubts on O’Banion after one year. She had to recruit at the last minute but getting Evans, Dunlap, Mendolsohn and a transfer named Shannon was as good a recruiting class as she ever had. I just think she and her staff were not good game day coaches. Your comment about taking three quarters of a season to see the zone press wasn’t working said it all. She never got the max from her players. Think of some of Lindsay’s players such as Kollat(think Johnson), Kowalska (think Shannon), Kempf ( think Petersen) etc. I’m sure there are other examples. She could recruit but she couldn’t get the most out of them. You say she was upbeat and she was with her personality but a lot of excuses were made in her comments. It’s positive to say we are young but will get better. However the team always had an excuse not to perform and I’m sure some of the better basketball minds among the players knew they weren’t being coached well and that was the real issue. At no time was this team championship caliber but a 0.500 conference record and a few upsets were within reach the last two years. With Lurken, Korinek, Stevens, James and Golden this team has a young core. If the new coach can develop another player or two into solid bench contributors we will be headed in the right direction again.

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  2. goldenflash101

    It’s funny how little coverage the releasing of O’Banion is getting. The web doesn’t even have a story on it when you google her. In fact little if anything about her coaching of the team. Lot of stuff on her battling cancer but almost nothing basketball related. It’s like noone cares. Another sign Kent women’s basketball has become irrelevant (maybe women’s basketball in total, it’s kind of going the way of cross country skiing, a fad for awhile but now fading from the radar screen). The sport badly needs some depth. On the national level it’s a half a dozen teams that almost never lose except to each other. In addition most of the smaller conferences have one super team that rarely loses in their conference.

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    • flashfanday1

      I don’t think the lack of coverage over O’Banion is a sign no one cares about women’s basketball. Women’s basketball and all women’s sports have a long way to go, but that’s just because sports are male driven back to the days of gladiators. O’Banion didn’t win anything so whats to talk about? This was also her first head coaching job. She never made a splash! Hopefully Kent can come back soon and make a dent. The next coach better make sure the players can run and enjoy running the Offense and Defense. Hopefully O’Banion finds a new Job and starts winning. Hoping for a Win for all parties involved.

      I do agree the sport needs depth, but the powerhouses make it seem worse than it is.

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      • goldenflash101

        Trust me as a fan of women’s basketball hardly anyone cares. It might not be fair but it’s a fact. Your probably right that Obanions poor record means her firing was expected so it is generating little conversation. Being male driven is part of it, but the quality just isn’t there to fill up 350 Division I rosters. Too many mismatches. As good a team as Connecticut is I can’t watch them. Maybe in the final 4 where a team might beat them but not any other time. In addition, many leagues have their mini versions of Connecticut. Albany, FGCU, Etc. Sometimes the names change but once a team is in place it stays there for four years. I like the game because they are not as arrogant and they have to play more of a team game to win. However I’m in a minority.

        By fading I mean remember when the Plain Dealer covered Kent women basketball like they were Ohio St? They did in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s but it just didn’t catch on. It reminded me of the surge in cross country skiing after Bill Koch won a silver medal in 1976. It was over a few years later. The coaching and players are much improved but there aren’t enough of them. The best thing would be to limit teams to 10 scholarships (or at least something less than 15) to spread the talent out, but for political reasons that would never happen. Of course the people that will fight back for political reasons never go to a game. Why not decrease D1 scholarships to 10 and increase D2 and D3 scholarships to make up for it? Then the player can play at the right level. If nothing changes the arenas will still remain empty and TV will only televise games because the NCAA says they have to. The laws have done all they can do. Universities take women sports much more seriously than in the past, the coaching has improved but now is the time to get creative and see if you can take things to another level.

        Believe me I’m a big fan of women’s basketball and women’s sports in general. I just think it should be managed to help the sport and not to help political correctness.

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  3. goldenflash101

    Interesting that the Connecticut comment came up today after our posts. As usual ESPN gets all up in arms over the comments. Connecticut is just boring to watch because the game is over before it starts. Comparisons to Tiger Woods and John Woodens teams are not even close. They did not dominate as much and many of their games/ tournaments were close. However, Connecticut isn’t the problem just the symptom. I looked at the last two years of conference winners and found the 64 men’s teams averaged 2.9 losses per champion while over the same period the women champions averaged 1.6. Doesn’t sound like much but the women champions only lose 60% as many games. It really does make for a lot less close conference races. The coaches that recruit better have much more of an advantage in the women’s game. They deserve it, but recruiting has more of an influence than it should. I don’t know if this continues if you keep going back farther but it is a recent trend.

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    • Carl Schierhorn

      Men’s game became more competitive when scholarships were cut from 15 to 13. Unlikely that will happen with women because of Title IX.

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      • goldenflash101

        It’s too bad they think more about numbers instead of what’s good for the game. Those empty arenas were embarrassing. I know the women’s game will never reach the levels of attendance the men’s game reaches. Some people refuse to watch the men’s game because it’s not as good as the NBA. The women will always lose fans for that reason. But what’s wrong with cutting two or three D1 scholarships and adding 2 or 3 D2 scholarships. That’s where most of those players should be anyway.

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