Grading the state's WBB head coaching hires

The women's college basketball coaching carousel is almost over in the state of Texas, as three of the four Division I job openings are filled, with the lone exception being A&M Commerce, which was a late entry into the job market after head coach Jason Burton left for the UNT job.

One intriguing thing about this year's jobs: they're all DFW or DFW adjacent. I don't want to become one of those "everything is DFW" people, but Commerce is close-enough to the metroplex to safely be called a DFW program IMO, and Stephenville's high school plays in a district with Waxahachie Life and Alvarado, so maybe it isn't officially DFW...but I'm still lumping it in there.

Anyway, let's grade the three hires we've had so far.

North Texas: Jason Burton

As UNT prepares to head to the American, the administration opted to make a change at head coach, with UNT legend Jalie Mitchell departing. Before we talk about Burton, let's quickly acknowledge how Mitchell really did some good things with this program. UNT finished over .500 four times under Mitchell; before she arrived, the team hadn't been over .500 since 2006. Yes, a change was needed, but Mitchell did a good job in Denton, and she was also the best player in UNT history, winning Sun Belt POTY in 2002.

As for this hire, I mostly love it. Jason Burton did a great job at Commerce, especially this season. Despite losing star Dyani Robinson to injury back in January, Burton led the Lions to a fourth-place finish in the Southland and took Southeastern Louisiana to overtime in the tournament semifinals. He's proven at Commerce that he's a very good basketball coach. Winning 13 games against Division I teams in the school's first year transitioning is impressive, and the team was perennially in contention when they were in Division II.

My only concern here: the jump in competition as UNT heads for the American. Burton was successful in Division II. He was successful in his one season coaching in the Southland. But will the jump to the AAC be a jump that's coming too fast? Personally, I don't think so, but I do acknowledge that it won't be easy, especially with the program's best player, Quincy Noble, in the portal. But with the Southland ranking 32nd of 32 conferences in NET and the American ranking sixth, it'll be tough. 

Grade: A-

Stephen F. Austin: Leonard Bishop

The Mark Kellogg era is over at SFA, but it's not necessarily all the way over, as the Ladyjacks promoted Leonard Bishop to head coach. Bishop spent eight years as an assistant for the team, and now gets a chance to lead one of the state's best mid-major teams.

Player development is a noted plus for Bishop, and that's something he'll have to do to keep the team's winning ways up, as SFA was hit hard by the transfer portal. Jordan Harrison and Zya Nugent have already joined Kellogg at WVU, while Avery Brittingham is in the portal as well.

Long-term, I think this is a really good hire. Short-term, SFA might struggle a little bit—by bringing in an internal hire and then having so many players follow Kellogg to WVU, SFA is going to have to build from within, because Bishop doesn't have players who can follow him to SFA from his last school.

Additionally, getting your first head coaching job at a school where the expectation is a WAC title is tough. I definitely have questions, but I know Bishop has the coaching talent to answer them, even if it takes a couple seasons.

Grade: B+

Tarleton: Bill Brock

Tarleton moved on from Misty Wilson, who spent nine years at the helm for the Texans, and brought in former Baylor assistant Bill Brock to take over.

And for me, this was a no-brainer. Tarleton's transition to Division I has been rough so far, so getting an established name like Brock to come to Stephenville is huge. Brock spent 18 seasons on the Baylor coaching staff, including 16 years as the associate head coach. He knows how to win games, and while he doesn't have much head coaching experience, the experience he does have is impressive: Brock led McLennan CC to the NJCAA Division I tournament this year, getting the team to the second round.

Brock will have a challenge at Tarleton, but he also isn't going to be expected to win the WAC immediately. This is about bringing in a coach with a good pedigree and building this program up. Brock is the perfect hire for that.

Grade: A

Texas A&M-Commerce: Valerie King

Replacing Jason Burton won't be easy. The former Lions head coach took over at UNT this offseason, leaving Commerce having to make a new hire in just its second season at the Division I level. They landed on Valerie King.

King comes to the program after seven seasons at New Mexico. The Lobos were really successful during her tenure, winning 64.4% of their games. She's had a lot of successful stops as an assistant, and one thing's been clear at each stop: she wants to shoot the ball.

Building a good shooting team at Commerce could take a bit, though. The team shot 25.7 percent from beyond the arc in 32 games against Division I schools last season. I can see the vision, but I'm not sure the vision is going to happen in the near term.

Grade: B

TCU: Mark Campbell

By all accounts, Mark Campbell is a name that's trending up. A former assistant coach at Oregon where he helped handle recruiting and was key in bringing Sabrina Ionescu to the Ducks, Campbell spent the past two seasons at Sacramento State, where he turned the program around. The year before he got there, the team won three games. Last year, the Hornets won a school-record 25 games and a share of their first Big Sky title. Campbell turned a struggling program around quickly, and that's what TCU hopes he'll do again.

And he can—his resume is great, and he has documented talent when it comes to recruiting. My only concerns are that the step from the Big West to the Big 12 is pretty big—maybe not as big as the Southland to the American, but Campbell goes from coaching in a conference ranked 17th in the NET to a conference ranked third, and that Campbell doesn't really have experience in the state of Texas. All of his coaching experience is on the West Coast. Can he recruit in Fort Worth?

Well...he's already answered some of those questions in the portal, using his Oregon roots to get Sedona Prince to Fort Worth, while also adding Arizona's Madison Conner and Cal State Fullerton's Una Jovanovic. That Prince add is huge for the Horned Frogs, but I still wonder what Campbell's able to do at TCU in terms of high school recruiting.

Grade: A

UTEP: Keitha Adams

Sometimes, you can come home again.

With Kevin Baker resigning after the season, the Miners found themselves back on the coaching market. I don't have any inside knowledge here, but I imagine it was a surprise to UTEP after the Miners made a run to the WNIT this season.

To replace Baker, the Miners turned to the past, bringing back Keitha Adams, who led UTEP to two NCAA Tournament appearances in her first time around before departing for the Wichita State job.

The Miners were really, really good under Adams. I have no idea if they'll be able to replicate that—hiring a former coach has its ups and downs—but this was a good move, especially after Baker's sudden departure.

Grade: A-

Share or Save for Later

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Save to Favorites