Dishin & Swishin 11/07/13 Podcast: Different expectations greet “new” head coaches Matt Insell, Mike Neighbors and Suzie McConnell-Serio
The NCAA women’s basketball coaching carousel went around and around this offseason, with an extensive group of coaches leaving and joining the fraternity, as shown by the Guru, Mel Greenberg’s outstanding list.
One can classify new coaches in different categories, including promoted “hot” assistants, assistant coaches that succeed the departing head coach, and coaches that move up from a mid-major or smaller school to a larger school, such as a BCS.
On today’s podcast Dishin & Swishin salutes the coaches making the jump to a new program. They have different goals, ranging from NCAA tournament appearances to simply improving and not finishing at the bottom of their conference.
Our first guest is one of the youngest head coaches in Division I women’s basketball, and also a first-time head coach. Matt Insell was a top assistant to Matthew Mitchell at Kentucky, and at only 31 years old takes over the University of Mississippi program. It was not too long ago that Ole Miss was in the Elite Eight, under now Los Angeles Sparks head coach Carol Ross and featuring Atlanta Dream guard Armintie Price.
The Rebels have struggled the last few years however, and in a strong Southeastern Conference, were selected by the media to finish 13th of 14 schools. Insell is trying to install the Kentucky attack and defend system with players that may not necessarily fit that system yet. One that could thrive, however, is senior guard and preseason second team All-Conference selection Victoria McFarland.
Ole Miss will kick off their season on Friday, November 8, hosting Jacksonville State at 6 p.m. ET.
Our second guest inherits a program in a pretty strong position and clearly on the rise. Mike Neighbors was one of the most respected and well-known assistant coaches in the country, known for his willingness to share and exchange information, as well as his now famous lists of music and movies with various titles. When Kevin McGuff chose to leave the Huskies to go to Ohio State, Neighbors was elevated to his first head coaching job.
Washington, coming off consecutive WNIT tournament appearances is preseason ranked fourth in a pretty strong Pac 12 this year, behind Stanford, California and Colorado. Jazmine Davis, the Huskies’ junior guard, was a preseason All-Conference team selection after averaging around 20 points per game last season.
In addition to the returning talent, Neighbors welcomes red-shirt freshman Katie Collier and freshman Kelsey Plum, both McDonald’s All-Americans in high school. Plum, in Washington’s exhibition win over Concordia, hit six three-pointers on her way to 32 points.
The Huskies will be hosting first and second round NCAA tournament games this spring, and anything less than an NCAA tournament berth, will be considered a disappointing season.
Washington opens their season on the road at Saint Mary’s (California) on Friday, November 8, at 6 p.m. PT.
Meanwhile on the east coast, Suzie McConnell-Serio, former All-American, Olympic gold medalist, and WNBA coach of the year has perhaps the most daunting task of our three guests. McConnell-Serio left the success she had in the Atlantic 10 with Duquesne, including a WNIT appearance last year, to take the helm at Pittsburgh in the Panthers’ debut season of Atlantic Coast Conference play.
Beyond the fact the ACC is perhaps the best conference in the country this year, with the incredibly talented teams like Duke, Notre Dame, and Maryland at the top of the conference, Pitt is coming off consecutive winless seasons in the Big East.
McConnell-Serio is well aware that this will be a more than one year project, but she is determined to lead Pitt back to the success it saw when Shavonte Zellous was running up and down the court in a Panthers uniform. She has her sister, former college and WNBA coach Kathy McConnell-Miller beside her, and the players have bought into the changes she is installing.
Every player on the team will see playing time, and have a shot at earning bigger minutes. Guard Brianna Kiesel showed her skills in the Big East, and will need to make an impact in the ACC, and size is at a premium in Pitt, especially 6-10 redshirt freshman Bubbles Anderson. It will be an interesting season at Pitt, one that will be judged based on performance and effort more than wins or losses.
Pitt is the first to kick off their season, tipping off against Bucknell on Friday, November 8, at 11 a.m. ET at the Petersen Events Center.
These three coaches are just a very small selection of the new coaches facing their first game this weekend with their new teams. There will be excitement and nerves, joy and disappointment. The good news though, is there will be a second game right around the corner.
Enjoy the podcast, and good luck to all of the coaches out there!