FARGO — Now that we know the finalists for the position of head women’s basketball coach at NDSU, the race is on. And, of course, that means it’s time to handicap the competition.
It’s a four-person sprint from here between Kansas assistant Jory Collins, Denver assistant Kayla Ard, Nebraska assistant Chuck Love and Drake assistant Allison Pohlman.
All appear to have the recruiting pedigree and looking at the Bison roster over the last several years, that certainly could use a boost. But we also heard the recruiting pitch in 2008 when Carolyn DeHoff was the race for Utah. We heard it in 2014 when Maren Walseth and her Penn State experience combined with her status as one of the all-time great players in the state of Minnesota at Bloomington Jefferson was expected to attract the coveted Twin Cities players to Fargo.
Ard has the most comprehensive experience in terms of Division I schools. She was at the University of Dayton, Clemson and Troy before being hired at Denver. The Dayton recruiting class of 2015 was considered one of the top 20 in the country, according to her bio on the Denver website.
Nebraska assistant Chuck Love is an interesting candidate. I like that he’s been under head coach Amy Williams for seven years and has seen first-hand what it takes to win a Summit League title. He should know plenty about NDSU, not only from facing the Bison but one of the other Cornhusker assistants is Tom Goehle, who is a former NDSU assistant. His resume is littered with success starting as a player at Northwest Oklahoma State almost 15 years ago.
Pohlman has been in Iowa since the 2000-01 season, first with Northern Iowa and then with Drake. She was a great player in her day at UNI and Drake has been outstanding in recent years in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bulldogs went 18-0 in league play in 2017-18 and won 47 straight league games before losing to Missouri State in January. That kind of success is hard to ignore.
But if I’m making this decision, I need more than a recruiter for this job. I need somebody who has run an entire operation, a person who knows what it’s like when the buck stops here. I want somebody who, when your team is trailing by one and you have the ball with under 15 seconds remaining, has a feel in pushing the time-out button. I want somebody who has made the decision when to push a team in practice and when to back off. I want somebody who has battled with administration on budget.
Selfishly, I’d like somebody who has a little media savvy. Note to incoming coach: don’t close practice to the media; you have more to worry about with this program than a sportswriter watching your out-of-bounds play. I have never in 31 years in this business seen any evidence whatsoever that some media schmuck watching practice for 20 minutes was related in any way to losing a game. Ridiculous.
Anyway, I’m going with Kansas assistant Jory Collins. He’s been a head coach and a successful one at that at Emporia State (Kan.). I don’t care if it was Division II. He was an assistant at Emporia when the Lady Hornets won a national title in 2010. Remember when national titles in women’s basketball were a thing around here?
He took over at Emporia and was the head coach for eight seasons. The Lady Hornets won at least 20 games in seven of those years. He’s won, he’s recruited and he’s called time outs.
But the standard disclaimer takes precedent here. I’m not interviewing these candidates and the only candidate I knew existed before this week was Love.