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March 30, 2011 at 1:37 PM

Mailbag: What’s your Washington coach short-list?

Huskies2.jpgNow that the NCAA Final Four teams are set, coaches across the country are packing bags for Indianapolis for a weekend of games, clinics, and networking. Athletic directors are doing the same, looking to fill some of the many vacant positions.
Washington is in the mix, although AD Scott Woodward is publicly keeping mum on the process, although rumor has former Stanford star Molly Goodenbour of UC Irvine interviewing for the position. No decision has been made to date. Still, reader Steve Tanaka of Seattle wants to know who should be on the Huskies’ short-list.
Like players, Washington is already stocked with coaching talent. Some are on the high school level, but in order for UW to appease its frustrated fan base, I’m sticking with the notion that a proven college or pro coach should be hired. And locally you have possibilities from Storm coach Brian Agler to Seattle University coach Joan Bonvicini and Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves.
But they’re all giving the, “I’m happy where I’m at” mantra, which sounds a little like, “If the right offer came along, I’d consider it.” Bonvicini even met with administrators this week, stating the same, but couldn’t give an exact “No” in a phone chat to the Washington position.
Completing her second season transitioning the Redhawks back to Division-I, Bonvicini was fired from Arizona in 2008 after 17 seasons, compiling a 287-223 record. A savvy recruiter, she could usher the Huskies into Pac-12 basketball while reinvigorating displeased fans.
“I enjoy where I’m at,” said Bonvicini, who anticipates being over .500 with transfer additions Talisa Rhea (Oregon State) and Nicole Jackson (Portland State) joining the lineup in 2011-12. “I’m the coach here at Seattle U. and my goal is to be in the NCAA tournament as soon as we can be postseason (eligible). That’s what I plan to do. I’m very happy here.”
Agler and Storm assistant Jenny Boucek haven’t been officially contacted, but Agler is a noted recruiter among the pro ranks while Boucek is a smart coach – especially at her former PG position — and is personable. The downfall is that Oregon coach Paul Westhead (Phoenix) and USC coach Michael Cooper (Los Angeles) didn’t transition as well as expected from the WNBA ranks, which could nip that trend.
“As of now, I have no intentions of going anywhere,” said Boucek, who was recently made a full-time assistant along with veteran coach Nancy Darsch. “Every coach, because our job is so unstable, is always analyzing the landscape — whether it be coaching overseas, the WNBA, college, or going into another profession. I try to stay open-minded to different things and have a lot of conversations. But to be honest, I’m real excited about coming back and working for the Storm.”
As a side note, Agler’s daughter is a highly touted sophomore PG in Ohio. His dream remains to coach Taylor in college and with her already getting letters from BCS schools, I wouldn’t be surprised if Agler jumped at a college position in the future.
“The important thing for whoever coaches the University of Washington is that person has to really recruit the Seattle-area and the state of Washington as well,” Agler said. “There have been numerous players that have gotten away that end up being very good for their team, whether it be the Pac-10 or the ACC. If you think about those players, if they would have had the ability to stay and play at Washington, I think that program could be as competitive as any in the Pac-10.
“Stanford, obviously, set the standard. They’re as good as anybody in the country right now. But Washington has that potential with the foundation of keeping the homegrown players right there. Then you’ll also get back that strong fan base that they used to have.”
Agler’s points bring me back to the short list that I still believe is possible, despite recent quotes that aren’t definitive: Graves and Florida State coach Sue Semrau, who has compiled a 258-174 record in 14 seasons guiding the Seminoles to seven consecutive NCAA berths.
Sure they’re happy, that just means that Washington needs to put some money and security on the table. Especially since Tia Jackson faced constant pressure throughout her four-year tenure.
Both Graves and Semrau are connected to the area, the latter graduating from Shorecrest High School. Their respective programs are respected and successful. And given that five players are entering their senior season at Washington, either coach would be able to quickly install their system and recruit for a turnaround that could be seen in about three years. The fan base would likely return sooner than that because both Graves and Semrau have big personalities to smooth the rough edges.
I’d only hope Semrau leaves the online media guide idea behind.
The downside is both have stellar recruiting classes at their respective schools that could lead to breakout seasons. Graves recently completed an inaugural Elite Eight run and will have solid guard play, again, next season. Washington also could be competing with UCLA, if rumors about Nikki Caldwell and Virginia are true.
But these are the two coaches I’d start to heavily woo because Washington can’t wait any longer to drag itself back to prominence. Not with Bonvicini working to take its place as the dominate D-I program in the city.



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