The Coaching Carousel – Men’s Basketball Trends and Title IX Concerns in Women’s Basketball


Dana Drew Shaw

With the 2014-2015 basketball season in the rear-view mirror, many programs have filled or are in the process of filling head coaching vacancies.  With athletic directors and search firms looking for the perfect fit, it’s a good time to review the presumed trends in men’s basketball as well as important issues at the forefront of the women’s coaching industry.

The latest trends in men’s basketball show three prevailing themes.

  • First, three former NBA players are taking the helm at UNC Charlotte, St. John’s, and Alabama. Each is a high profile hire generating interest and support, with the bet that the new coach’s NBA rèsumè will prove invaluable in recruiting young athletes who aspire to play professionally.  These programs are likely looking to duplicate UCONN’s success last year under the leadership of Coach Kevin Ollie who played 12 years in the NBA.  It is worth noting that Ollie did coach for two years under the legendary coach Jim Calhoun before assuming the reins at UCONN, while Mark Price, Chris Mullins and Avery Johnson do not have collegiate coaching experience.
  • Second, both DePaul and Liberty followed a different approach by rehiring coaches with prior tenures at the schools. Providing these second opportunities should ensure a smooth transition period because culture, personnel, procedures, and recruiting are already familiar to the new coach.
  • Lastly, NCAA tournament success seems to be a major factor in hires at the elite universities. High profile positions at Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Texas were all filled by coaches with Final Four experience.

With the NBA season winding down, the men’s basketball coaching carousel may continue revolving as NBA teams look to mine the college ranks for coaching talent.

The women’s basketball market for 2015 still has many open positions to be filled.  So far, promoting assistant coaches from top programs seems to be the trend.  This April, two assistant coaches from Final Four participant Maryland have landed head coaching positions at Rice University and Florida International University.  Likewise, the University of Georgia promoted its own assistant coach to take over the top spot.

The issue of gender of women’s basketball coaches is no doubt on the minds of many athletic directors when hiring for the women’s position.  Several articles and studies have identified a large disparity in female coaches in women’s sports.  Interestingly, the number of female coaches has dropped drastically since the passing of Title IX.  Currently, the national average of female head coaches in women’s sports is around 40%.  An article published by the Indianapolis Star in February found that within Indiana’s Division I University women’s programs the number of female coaches from all sports falls below that national average at 33%. In the face of such disparity, the next wave in Title IX litigation may be centered on the gender of coaches in women’s sports.

A civil rights complaint filed by four student athletes from the University of Iowa serves as an example of the heightened attention on the gender of coaches in women’s sports.  The complaint alleges that the “University has engaged in a pattern of removing highly qualified female coaches because of gender.”  Clearly, the concern regarding female coaches is becoming a topic of conversation and may become a relevant factor in the hiring of coaches in women’s basketball.

As the coaching carousel continues to turn, it will be interesting to track whether any of the foregoing trends continue, as well as the gender breakdown in hiring for the women’s basketball positions yet to be filled.

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