Had a few moments at Friday’s Pac-10 meetings in San Francisco to talk with Oregon State athletic director Bob de Carolis about the firing of women’s basketball coach LaVonda Wagner and the search for a new basketball coach. de Carolis said he was to make a “speedy” hire to replace Wagner, who was fired last week after a mass player exodus and media reports of mistreatment by the coach. “We want to make the right decision because you’re making a decision for the long-term that hopefully goes beyond a four- or five- or six-year contract, because if you find the right person for your program, they could be there forever,” de Carolis said. “So while speed is important, it’s also important to get it right.”
A search committee, that includes men’s coach Craig Robinson, has been formed. The job has been posted on an “expedited” basis with the goal of making a hire by July 1. de Carolis said interest in the job is “high” and indicated he has a few people in mind. Former USC coach Mark Trakh is believed to be on that list.
“I’m not surprised (in the interest) because it’s a Pac-10 job, and we’ve got some things going for us from an infrastructure perspective,” de Carolis said. “We’ve got new offices for our coaches, new lockerrooms that was almost a $1 million and our sports performance center. We’re starting the fundraising for our men’s and women’s practice facility. Next March, the academic center down the street gets built.”
The Oregon State community has struggled with the university’s decision to fire Wagner “without cause” and pay out the estimated $1.2 million remaining on her contract.
“Whenever you lose somebody in your department, it’s like losing a family member,” de Carolis said. “That piece is tough, but we’ve been trying to focus in on how we move forward. Just try to build the program back up.”
de Carolis was asked whether he would have done anything differently, given the benefit of hindsight.
“I think you can always do things better,” de Carolis said. “But I don’t really want to go into specifics on that. But I think we can go back and say ‘This makes sense about why this happened this way’, but you can second-guess yourself all day long.”
The significant number of transfers among student-athletes will make rebuilding the Oregon State program a very big project for the next coach. It will be more than filling a depleted roster. It will be rebuilding trust and faith in the future of the program and convincing new recruits that Corvallis is a good place to spend a college career.
“Whenever you make a coaching change, that has to happen,” de Carolis said. “Whether kids leave or don’t leave…the new coach has to come and in and re-recruit those kids. That’s the tough part when there’s a change for any reason. You got recruited by another coach…and it’s like getting a new boss. But you are working with young adults and sometimes they can be more resilient and sometimes it’s a fit and sometimes it’s not. In any situation, the new coach will have to re-recruit.”
Current players on the roster will be part of the interview process.