Just a few days after Wichita State announced that head coach Jody Adams-Birch would be held from coaching two games this weekend, the school and Adams-Birch parted ways. Linda Hargrove, a former WSU and WNBA head coach will take over the program for the remainder of the season.
The latest turmoil at the school began when sophomore Ellie Lehn decided to transfer recently. In the spring of 2015 the program conducted an internal review after allegations of mental and verbal abuse of players became public following a wave of transfers. The school opted to keep Adams-Birch after the review.
The official statement from WSU:
Wichita State University and its head women’s basketball coach Jody Adams-Birch have mutually and amicably agreed to part ways, Director of Athletics Darron Boatright announced tonight.
Boatright said, “I would like to thank Coach Kirk Crawford for his leadership during the weekend, and for his willingness to serve as head coach for the last two games.”
Linda Hargrove, former WSU head coach from 1989-98, has agreed to run the program and serve as its head coach for the remainder of the 2016-17 basketball season.
Assistant coaches Crawford, Bridgette Gordon, and Kaci Bailey are expected to serve through the end of their contracts, as will Director of Operations Michael Gomez.
Update 1/23/17: Wichita State officially announced Hargrove on Monday with a press conference. In addition to her experience as a coach on the college and pro level, Hargrove also runs runs a combine during the Final Four for WNBA coaches and general managers,foreign coaches and agents.
Athletic Director Darron Boatright’s opening statement
“Thanks for assembling today. Today, we’re here to introduce our fourth and eighth women’s head basketball coach, Linda Hargrove. This is an opportunity I believe – during this time of transition – that became an obvious choice to me; to take advantage. A lot of times your decisions are dictated by resources that you have available, and I consider Linda to be a very valuable resource that happens to be right here from Derby. When I thought that we needed to take this step of asking someone to finish out the year, Linda was an easy person to decide on. Maybe not as easy to get to agree to it, I’ve ruined her retirement life for the next couple of months. I’m excited for this, I think her background speaks for itself both collegiately and at the professional level, and I think that will prove to be a better transition for the young women in our program.”
…The decision to pick Hargrove to lead the team for the remainder of the season
“I serve on the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame board with Linda, that’s how we know each other. In the times that I’ve been around her, I’ve just been impressed with not only her background, but the way she carries herself and how she can blend into a room but still garners respect. That’s something that’s always stuck out to me with Linda, and I think that’s exactly what we need at this time.”
…Potential candidates for after this season, and if Hargrove is one of those candidates
Linda Hargrove: “Linda is not.”
DB: “That’s very clear, Linda is not. It will be a national search that I will ask Linda to assist me with. When I talk about ‘national search,’ that starts at 21st and Hillside and the circle will grow as big as it needs to be.”
…Questions about the transition
“We’re finalizing an agreement [with Jody Adams-Birch] currently, and until that’s finalized, I don’t think it serves anyone well for me to comment on it.”
…The challenge of a mid-season transition
“I will let Linda address what she expects to be the challenges. However, I am not using the term ‘interim’ with Linda. She is our head coach, and she has the ability and authority to run this program as she sees fit without any interference from anyone else until the end of this season. I think an interim basis a lot of times proves that there’s no end date set in mind. Well we know this one has an end date coming upon the end of this season. I want her to know that she has our full support as a department and university to run this program without any interference.”
…Making a decision on Adams-Birch
“No one’s ever said I decided Jody wouldn’t remain here. We reached a joint, mutual and amicable separation that was in the best interest of all [parties] involved. When I found out that there were some concerns that I wanted to look into more on Thursday, things changed quite a bit after that. On Friday, it became apparent that we would be working on a separation agreement. At that point in my mind, I had to start looking for an alternate to fulfill the [rest of] the year as our head coach.”
…The details of what happened on Thursday and Friday
“I refer to our release. We decided to separate ways. It was very professional and very amicable. I’m impressed by the way all parties have handled it to this point.”
…If he has addressed the team yet
“I addressed the team following the game yesterday after their media obligations were taken care of. I told them the agreement that had been reached with coach Adams[-Birch] and the university, and at that time, told them that Linda would be taking over. I thanked Kirk [Crawford] for his leadership over a very interesting few days, I talked to him following the game. And then at that point, I handed it over to the coaches and let them handle it.”
…The team’s response
“I think it was a range of emotions. When you get told something like that, I think there’s probably a little bit of confusion, a little bit of angst. No one is happy about anything that has transpired, so that absolutely was not an emotion. You’re a college-aged young woman, and not only have you just played two games for someone other than your head coach, [but] now you have an athletic director standing before you, telling you that you’re getting another one in addition to that. I’m sure there was some confusion in their minds. Linda spent the day in individual meetings with them, and I think that that relationship has started. Linda has addressed our team on several occasions over the years. [She is] someone that Jody has tremendous respect for, as well as Linda has respect for Jody.”
…His conversation with Kirk Crawford after Sunday’s win
“It was good, I informed Kirk on what direction we were going to go on Saturday night. I didn’t want to surprise him; I wanted him to have some time to process it before going in and trying to implement a game plan on Sunday. Kirk knew, [and] we thought it was in the best interest of all involved to not tell the team until following the game, which I appreciate. To any of you all that may have found something out…I appreciate your holding on to that [information] to where it didn’t affect the mindset of our young women.”
…The relief he felt after deciding on Hargrove
“I can assure you there has not been a sense of relief in the last week of my life.”
…The role that Wichita State President Dr. Bardo played in this process
“Dr. Bardo allows me to run the department as I see fit. Obviously I don’t make any big decisions without his blessing, but in this case I took him a recommendation and he said ‘you’re the Athletic Director, do what you see is in the best interest of the program,’ and that’s when I told him that I wanted to hire Linda for the duration of the year.”
…Discussing the contract buyout with Adams-Birch
“We’re still working on finalizing the details of the document. I just don’t think it would be professional of me to do it at this time.”
…Why he chose to hire Hargrove to the position rather than a current staff member
“Again, I just think it was having something at our availability that I felt like could help: with Linda’s background, especially dealing with both college-age and professional-age women. I would’ve had no qualms about staying with the current staff, but I only wanted to do that if Linda declined the opportunity. I just had it in my mind that once it became apparent that I was going to need someone for the remainder of the year, I wanted her to have the opportunity to turn me down.”
Head Coach Linda Hargrove’s opening statement
“I didn’t realize I was the fourth and the eighth [head coach]. Well I’m very excited to be in this position – a position I certainly didn’t expect to be in a week ago – but now that I’m here and have had an opportunity to watch the players play yesterday and meet with the staff yesterday after the game, and then with the players individually beginning early this morning, I’m getting into it. I’m really looking forward to the next six-seven-eight weeks, however long we can push this thing, and getting a chance to work with a lot of motivated young women and coaching staff, and we’ll see how far we can take it. The main thing from my perspective is to not only try to be as successful as we can on the court, but it’s to try to help these young women have a positive experience and feel good about the Wichita State women’s basketball program and Wichita State University.”
…What made her decide to return to Wichita State
“Well I love Wichita State. I invested nine years of my life here trying to build a program. I just wanted to do what I could to help. My biggest drawback – and Darron is well aware of this – is that I have an 18-year-old grandson who’s playing basketball. When I left Wichita State 18 years ago my daughter was pregnant with my first grandchild, and I’ve been watching him play basketball now for many years, I hated to miss any of his senior year. That was one of the biggest challenges I had to come to terms with, not being able to watch Jacob play all of his senior year. But when I called [Jacob] and told him what I was going to do and talked about it, it was really not a big deal to him. So I think it was way more [of] a big deal to me than it was for him. I’m very comfortable with the decision now, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
…The challenges she faces with the team
“I think we’ve started on that today, with me meeting each of the players and trying to give them a voice, and trying to bring a group of people together. I think I do that really well…I’ve coached for 36 years and I think one of my strengths was pulling people together and having them work hard for a common goal. Trying to meld different personalities. As a coach, I like to come in and put in a lot my stuff and a lot of the things I can feel comfortable and confident coaching, but as somebody who wants the best for these young women, that’s not the thing to do. After watching them play yesterday, I thought they played with a lot of passion, I thought they played hard, I thought their offensive and defensive schemes were really good. I’m going to get on top of what they’re doing, and then we’ll start working things I’d like to see us do a little bit later. Right now, I’m going to work with the coaches to get on top of the things they already have [implemented]. It’s not fair to them to bring in a whole new system right now.”
…The range of emotions she’s experienced in the last week
“I’ve just tried to put it out of my mind. My grandson was playing in a tournament in Salina on Thursday-Friday-Saturday, and I had two granddaughters playing volleyball in Lawrence and Kansas City on Saturday, and I was texting and talking to Darron in the car while I was travelling from one place to the other. Now I think I’ve got my head around it, and I’m very excited about the opportunity. Hopefully I can bring a new voice, a clear voice, to them and help them be successful.”
…If the opportunity brought back an itch to return to coaching
“I would have to say not really. When I retired, I was pretty confident and comfortable with that decision. I’ve stayed involved in basketball in different areas in the last eight or nine years. I really didn’t have this real competitive itch until just yesterday really, that’s when I watched them play. That was the first time I’d seen the team play this year. I got kind of excited about what I saw, and then meeting with the coaches and staff last night and the players today, it’s definitely there. I’m excited about it.”
…Her goals, considering she’s only here for a couple months
“I think just try to stabilize the program a little bit. In meeting with the players, some of them are sad, some of them are confused, they’re all stressed. It’s been a very stressful situation for them in the last four or five days. I think just trying to get everybody back to the idea of ‘let’s play some basketball and let’s have some fun.’ I heard the word ‘fun’ two or three times today in the interviews with the players. They said they had fun yesterday. They played free and they had fun. I think we want to get that feeling back and have them working for each other.”
…What she’ll look for as she assists in the search for the next coach
“I haven’t really given that a lot of thought yet. Darron did ask me to be involved, and I’m very excited to be involved. There are some great people out there that I think would be very interested in this position. I know a lot of people from the professional side and also from the collegiate side, and I’m guessing that we’re going to want somebody that’s shown success, whether that’s at a playing level or a coaching level. Darron and I haven’t really talked about it, but I will definitely be excited to give him any input that I can.”
DB: “We’ve had other conversations in the last 48 hours. We’ll get to that one.”
…What makes Wichita State a unique and special place to coach
“Well, things have changed a lot here in the last 18 years. [Charles Koch Arena] I think is amazing. But for me, I have my master’s degree from here. I’m local, I grew up in Udall, Kansas. I have just loved this university, and I don’t know specifically why. I think the campus is beautiful, I think a lot of people underestimate the beauty of our campus. Every time I would have a student on-campus, I wanted to do a campus tour with them because I just loved being on our campus. I think a lot of people don’t know how beautiful the campus is. The facilities are great, the program, the people that you work with. To me, the thing that’s always made Wichita State special are the people. Whether it was the players or the coaches I worked with, or the administration I worked with, it’s a great place. All the athletic programs are very, very strong. Gregg [Marshall] has done an amazing job. When I was here 18 years ago, we didn’t have a men’s basketball program like we do now. And we didn’t have a volleyball program like we do know. And Kristi [Bredbenner] is doing a great job with our softball program. There’s so many things we have going for us here, and it’s not been too long ago that women’s basketball was right there too. Jody did an amazing job here with the success that she brought the program. She has reached out to me and I have reached out to her over this transition. In fact, she called this morning and said ‘if you have any issues on the playbook, or what we were trying to do and why we were trying to run certain things, give me a call.’ I contacted her on Saturday night to make sure she was aware that this was going to happen before she saw it on television or saw it in the paper. I think there’s so many good things about Wichita State.”
…The level of talent she sees with this team, considering the high levels she has worked at
“First of all, I loved every step along the way. I loved my time at Cowley, and then Wichita State, and then the pros. Every time I was somewhere, I loved where I was. The thing I was very impressed yesterday with: I thought our post play was really good, our posts run the floor. I don’t know everybody’s name yet. When Darron asked me if I would be interested in this, I said ‘you do it, you know their names.’ I thought yesterday Angiee Tomkins played extremely well, and Rangie Bessard is obviously one of the best players in the Valley. The team looked athletic to me, they ran the floor really well. They rebounded pretty [well] yesterday. I thought they made pretty good decisions and executed well. I think there’s some definite talent here at Wichita State. It was a unique opportunity for me after I left here and went into the pros. I think being in the system on the 1992 Olympic team kind of opened up a lot of doors for me at that level, because I was coaching the top players in the world. When the professional league started in the United States again, a lot of those players were interested in having me be involved in coaching at that level, and I loved it. There’s not a great deal of difference between that junior-college athlete, the athlete at Wichita State, and the athlete at the WNBA level. A lot of it has to do with drive, determination, how passionate they are about playing and how high they can actually take their talents. And there’s talent here.”
This post is part of the thread: 2016-17 College Season – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.