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The latest news and analysis on college and pro women's basketball.

March 10, 2011 at 10:29 AM

Season over? What’s next for Washington basketball

TiaJackson2.jpgGlance at internet message-board opinions and there’s only one move that should be next for the Washington women’s basketball team: find a new head coach. UW athletic director Scott Woodward declined discussing fourth-year coach Tia Jackson’s position earlier this season, stating he would at its conclusion.
Yet, that may not be the disappointing 58-48 loss to California on Wednesday, marking Washington’s second consecutive opening-game exit from the Pac-10 tournament. The Huskies played without defensive leader Charmaine Barlow, who sprained her ankle at the end of the USC regular-season loss on Sunday. Despite wearing a walking boot and riding roller coasters at Knott’s Berry Farm on Monday, she wasn’t given clearance by the trainer to play on Wednesday.
Barlow’s absence is bigger than critics think. She helped hold Cal PG Layshia Clarendon to 8 of 22 shooting for an average of 10.5 points in two regular-season losses to UW. Clarendon busted out with a double-double in 16 points and 10 boards in the third game. In January, she didn’t even grab a rebound while in the 60-49 loss in February, Clarendon had four boards.
Still, the point is this may not be the end for Washington. Obviously the Huskies (11-17) aren’t one of the 64 best teams in the nation. But the WNIT may look UW’s way and there’s always the Women’s Basketball Invitational, which is in its second season.
At 12-17, the Huskies were part of the inaugural field of 16 teams in 2010, losing on the road to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the second round. Selections for 2011 will be made Monday.
Teams are charged $10,000 to host and paid $7,000 to travel for the WBI. A source doesn’t believe Washington would accept an invitation, however, because the team needs those funds to pay for its Scandinavian trip in August.
But, if Woodward gives the nod to participate this year, you should take it as a sign that Jackson will retain her position with the first-year assistant coaching staff. There’s nothing the WBI would show that the past 28 games haven’t in weighing Jackson’s status. It’s a waste of time if Woodward is going to head in a new direction to allow her to coach in a third-tier postseason tournament. That could be viewed as a punishment to the players, but there’s only one senior and we’re not talking about the NCAA tournament. The rest of the roster is expected to return and can make its postseason run then.
Jackson could be back, however. Washington had a slew of injuries until the end — an excuse for the rocky year where Jackson believes the team is better than its record. Woodward’s “marketed” progress could be seen in recruits like Marjorie Heard making an immediate impact. PG Mercedes Wetmore could have too, if Jackson would have played her when senior Sarah Morton was injured to start the season (perhaps helping the freshman feel more comfortable with the start Wednesday), but that’s hindsight. Plus, Washington was only embarrassed by Georgia Tech, playing some of the best defense in the Pac-10 to nearly win seven more regular-season games.
And I believe focus is elsewhere right now, anyway. Between the men’s basketball scandal and needing funding for a new football stadium, does the athletic department really spend resources on a women’s basketball coaching search?
The reasons to do so are obvious. Jackson has never had a winning record at Washington, top high school prospects continue to leave for other conference schools like Cal and Utah (which joins next season). Despite turnstile counts that have UW ranked fourth in the conference in attendance (2,411), the number of paying fans is about 700. And UW’s finish this season was worse than last year when the Huskies won their final three Pac-10 games and appeared ready to return strong this season.
UW closes this part of the season having lost seven of its past 10 games.
“I still get to coach basketball,” Jackson said after the home losses to the Arizona schools of any stress to save her job. She has one year remaining on a contract stemming from former AD Todd Turner’s regime.
“In my sleep, in real life and it’s what I love to do,” Jackson continued. She’s pictured right courtesy of UW. “I don’t really think about it (people wanting her fired). I come out here and I get to coach and teach every day. That’s the beauty in what I do and if that’s taken away at some point, then it’s taken away in this situation. But I don’t think about that at all.”



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