Following the surprise announcement of University of New Mexico’s Head Women’s Basketball Coach, one of the first questions on everyone’s mind is who will be found to take his place? From the outset, it’s going to be an interesting search. Higher profile jobs (e.g. at Virginia and UCLA) need to be filled. Let’s face it, UNM isn’t exactly in the bright national spotlight. Still, Flanagan brought some attention to Lobos women’s basketball, and that will help.
UNM was never able to get much higher than the lower rungs of the Top 25 poll. The style of play that Flanagan brought to the team was never going to do that. Given the usual level of talent New Mexico will tend to attract, the question is whether it’s the players that were the limiting factor or the coach’s philosophy? It seems we are about to find out.
My first desire is for the school to find a former WNBA player who also has earned her stripes as either an assistant at one of the better college programs or as a promising head coach at a lower-level Division I school. The first name I threw out there was Notre Dame assistant, Niele Ivey. That said, I wonder if she has enough recruiting experience yet to move into the head coaching role. I also couldn’t help but think of Jenny Boucek, who has played and coached (as both an assistant and head coach) in the WNBA. Again, I worry about the recruiting angle as her coaching credentials are in the pro game. (On a personal note, I’m going to suggest Monmouth Assistant Coach Jasmina Perazic if for no other reason than I haven’t seen this All-American, Olympian, WNBAer in a while.)
In just this first round of picking names out of a hat, I kept coming back to one who already has experience in the Mountain West: Daron Park. Park is currently associate head coach for Teresa Weatherspoon at Louisiana Tech. He spent two years at Maryland as an assistant coach for Brenda Frese (and was acting head coach for part of the season due to Frese’s pregnancy), and was an assistant coach for Elaine Elliott at Utah from 2004 through 2007–winning two MWC championships. If I’m the UNM AD, I’m probably going to test the waters with Park first before anyone else. He knows the women’s college game, has had success, and is familiar with the conference. There’s a lot of upside.
Again, there are higher profile schools also looking for new coaches. I wouldn’t be surprised if Park was on their short lists as well. It’s certainly going to be an interesting search. I’ve mentioned former WNBA players as they are just now starting to bring their experience into the new generation of coaches who are replacing the names that are now being inducted into various Halls of Fame. This pool of talent creates a lot of options. It’s going to be an interesting time for a lot of schools this off season.