After an injury-riddled, disappointing season, the University of Nebraska has announced Connie Yori, NU's most successful coach in program history, has resigned from her position of Head Women's Basketball coach. The move comes after a season which saw the Huskers start fast, but struggle down the stretch, missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years.
The resignation comes amid allegations of mistreatment of players and a season that saw administrators present at practices (an unusual move) starting in February. (Credit to Lincoln Journal Star for breaking the news.)
This will likely overshadow some of Yori's accomplishments at Nebraska. Her teams reached the NCAA tournament seven times in the past nine seasons. She saw NU advance to the Sweet 16 twice, the only two times any basketball team has ever done that at Nebraska.
Her greatest season was 2009-10, when behind the All-American play of Kelsey Griffin, NU went 29-0 in the regular season and were awarded the only #1 NCAA Tourney seed in school history. She swept the major coaching awards in 2010. Her only other title came in 2014 when the Huskers won the Big Ten Tournament.
Yori coached 2 All-Americans: Griffin and Jordan Hooper; she finished with a record of 279-161 (a .634 winning %).
The State of the Husker Women's Basketball Program
Nebraska has great fan support compared to many women's basketball programs. In the 2014-15 season, the Huskers ranked #11 in the entire country with 5,587 fans per game. Nebraska also has the impressive Pinnacle Bank Arena. Throw in the athletic department's investment in the Athletic Performance Lab and Student Life Center and you have a pretty potent combination of shiny things that many women's basketball coaches will not have in their current programs.
Top it off with the roster returning two All Big Ten performers (Romeo and Shepard), a rising sophomore class with three ESPN100 recruits (Shepard, Blackburn, Simon), and incoming freshman ESPN100 recruit (Cayton) and you have some decent pieces to work with. This is assuming no transfers or attrition because of the coaching change (which is certainly a bad assumption).
Who Could Replace Coach Yori?
We know Nebraska could pay top dollar and try to lure an established coach if they wanted. However, that is not Nebraska's style (outside of Steve Pederson anyway). So, some realistic names to watch include a peek at that state just north of us.
South Dakota has two quality women's basketball programs and coaches at SDSU and USD.
Aaron Johnston at SDSU has turned the Jackrabbit program into a mid-major power and has been in the NCAA tournament consistently since becoming eligible in their move to Division I. Most notably, the Jacks came one heartbreaking point short of advancing to the Sweet 16 in the 2016 tourney. He has flirted with or been linked to other jobs before (here and here) and he stands to earn a significant raise moving to a job like Nebraska (his 2014-15 salary was reported to be in the $200K range while Yori made over $700K that year.)
Amy Williams at USD makes even more sense as she has that one line in her bio that makes every Husker fan happy; "four year basketball letter winner at Nebraska". She is a hot commodity after coaching her Coyotes to the 2016 women's NIT championship. She appears to be an up-and-coming coach on the perfect trajectory to make the jump to a major conference program. Watch this one closely.
Just spit-balling a few other possibilities (and I have absolutely no idea if these are good, bad, realistic or even on AD Eichhorst's radar - just some conversation starters). My main criteria was looking at some successful programs (major and mid-major) and seeing if I could come up with a reason one of their coaches (head or assistant) might be pulled to dear old NU. Head-coaching experience was a must in my mind. I do not see Nebraska hiring a first-time head coach (but I would be very wrong).
Mike Neighbors- Washington. He has the Huskies on an upward trajectory and seems to be noted for player development. Would he want to give up Seattle to move closer to "home" (Arkansas)?
Carol Owens - Notre Dame assistant who is especially good at developing post players. She has head coaching experience (Northern Illinois). Does she feel drawn to becoming a head coach again?
Lisa Boyer - South Carolina assistant who is part of an incredibly good run at SC. She has professional coaching experience and has been a head coach, but absolutely no ties to this part of the country. Would she leave that level of success to try and bring a good Nebraska program up to great as the person in charge?
Kevin Borseth - the Green Bay head man is top notch mid-major coach who had a "meh" stint at Michigan for five years. (To be fair, the Wolverine program actually improved a fair bit under him even if his record was barely over .500 there). Would he be compelled to show his Michigan results were due more to a terrible AD (Brandon) than his own ability to run a major program?
I'd like to think Nebraska could try and pry Scott Rueck away from Oregon State, but a Final Four appearance in the 2016 NCAA tourney as well as coaching at his alma mater probably make this an unlikely choice even if it would be fun to look at OSU as our coaching farm system. Karen Aston at Texas would be an excellent choice, but is unlikely to leave a program that she has heading in a really good direction.