Sherri Coale

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

It looked as though Texas could have escaped Norman with a last-second win.

Down one with four seconds remaining, Oklahoma guard Morgan Hook missed a free throw, and the Longhorns took it coast-to-coast as junior forward Nneka Enemkpali found herself behind Oklahoma’s defense. 

Enemkpali completed the layup, but took too much time as the shot fell about a second late. Instead of Texas celebrating, it was Oklahoma, clad in pink uniforms, that celebrated in front of a crowd of pink uniforms with a 64-63 win.

“It was a tough loss,” head coach Karen Aston said. “Defensively, we just weren’t good enough down the stretch. We can’t put ourselves in a position to have to make that play on the road.”

Hook, who recorded 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, was just a free-throw short of being perfect in the final minutes of Wednesday night’s game.

Hook pushed the tempo, going down the court for a game tying layup with 43 seconds to go to tie the game. 

Then, after Texas didn’t get a call on a hard collision at the rim, Hook drove right at sophomore center Imani McGee-Stafford, drawing a foul with just four ticks remaining. 

Hook sunk just one of two, but that was all the Sooners needed to skirt past the Longhorns without their best player.

“We just attached ourselves to Morgan’s will. We really did,” Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale said. “She … made tough play after tough play. … She was not going to be denied this win.”

Oklahoma guard Aaryn Ellenberg, who leads the Sooners (16-11, 7-7 Big 12) with 18 points a game, was knocked out in their last contest against Oklahoma State with a concussion and was not able to suit up against the Longhorns. 

This was supposed to be a break for the Longhorns (17-9, 8-6 Big 12) who saw Ellenberg drop 37 points against them in their first matchup but still pull off an overtime win. But this time, without the Sooner star, Texas fell to the balanced Sooner offense led by Hook that saw three players score double-figures. Both teams struggled from the field as Texas shot 40 percent and the Sooners shot 38.6 percent.

“Despite miserable numbers, I told them in the locker room that this stat sheet is ugly, but the important number on there is 64,” Coale said. “We had one more point than they did and we finally figured out how to win a close game.”

Enemkpali and senior guard Chassidy Fussell led the Longhorns, combining for a total of 33 points, while McGee-Stafford and sophomore guard Celina Rodrigo grabbed eight rebounds each. The Longhorns also recorded eight blocks, seven from McGee-Stafford.

Texas will try to recover from the loss when they play Iowa State on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Ames, Iowa. 

Kim Mulkey, who has led Baylor to a 38-0 record this year, would be an ideal fit as the headcoach at Texas but would not likely accept the job.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Finding a new coach is never an easy task for an athletic department, but when the vacancy results from an abrupt resignation by one of the most successful women’s basketball coaches in the past fifteen years, the task gets tougher.

“You always have a short list in your pocket no matter what happens,” said women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky. “Things can happen in sports that just don’t make sense and the timing is never good. People can be in accidents, you can lose people for bizarre reasons and you always have to be prepared.”

Thankfully for Plonsky, former head coach Gail Goestenkors’ decision to end her tenure as head coach of the Longhorns was brought to her attention before Goestenkors went public last week.

“Ironically the very first time [Goestenkors] talked to me was at a very critical point in our season where we just had an unbelievable game; I think it was against Oklahoma [Feb. 25],” she said.

A quick glance at the job listing on the UT Direct website for the newly open position reveals some basic, yet interesting, requirements for anyone that feels they are a suitable candidate to fill the opening. Casual applicants need not apply, however.

Obviously some sort of coaching experience at the D-I level is required, but there’s also an emphasis on player development and goals that include competing for both conference and national titles.

In a perfect world, coaches like Baylor’s Kim Mulkey, Texas A&M’s Gary Blair and even Oklahoma’s Sherri Coale would all be sitting near a phone anxiously awaiting a call from Plonsky. But with two national titles and countless Final Four appearances between the trio, a move to Texas could be considered lateral, if not a downgrade. Not to mention that the earliest any of their contracts expire is in 2015. Also, Coale receives a country club membership and 20 hours of private plane usage a year as part of her newly restricted contract — she’s not going anywhere.

No one’s exactly sure what Plonsky’s short list looks like as of now, but she may not have to look any further than the current coaching staff.

LaKale Malone has been with the Texas program since 2007 and has shown a knack for recruiting elite talent, signing five McDonald’s All-Americans in as many years. Malone may not have deep Texas ties that may be a huge boon to her recruiting prowess, but she comes from a basketball-rich background that could give her an edge over other candidates.

A four-year letter winner at Indiana from 1994-1999, Malone has also held assistant coaching positions at Wagner, Bradley and Nebraska, where she helped the Cornhuskers reach the NCAA tournament in 2007 and make three appearances in the WNIT tournament. Malone gained further postseason experience as a part of Goestenkors staff and is regarded very highly by her former staffers.

“LaKale is one of the rising young stars in the coaching profession,” Gostenkors said. “She understands the Big 12 Conference well, which is a huge asset to our program. She is very genuine and players and staff alike relate very well to her. LaKale has high energy, a great knowledge of the game, a tremendous work ethic and great passion — coaching traits which are essential for us in our quest to win championships.”

Ron Hughey hasn’t been in Austin quite as long as Malone, but he deserves to be considered as a potential replacement to Goestenkors. Like Malone, Hughey is known best for his recruiting and development of post players, a useful skill with 6-foot-7 prep standout Imani Stafford set to join the Longhorns this offseason. Hughey spent three years as an assistant at South Carolina State from 2004-2007 before accepting a job at South Carolina, where he remained for just a year. Hughey then landed at Central Florida in 2009, where Golden Knights won five straight games in the C-USA tournament to receive an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament. He then served another one-year stint as an assistant at Rutgers, helping the Scarlet Knights reach the NCAA tournament in 2010.

“Ron has a great combination of passion and coaching experience that make him a terrific fit for Texas women’s basketball,” Goestenkors said. “His enthusiasm allows him to be an excellent recruiter, and his passion comes through in everything that he says and does. He is also a tremendous post coach and he has worked with and developed several great post players.”

Malone and Hughey have rather slim resumes compared to some of the top coaches in the game right now, but both possess qualities that make them more than suitable head coach candidates.

Plonsky’s decision will come soon enough, but there is certainly talent readily available. Whoever is chosen as the next coach will have to turn things around quickly, as expectations are higher than ever on the 40 Acres.

Printed on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as: Who will be Goestenkors' successor?

Women's Basketball Notebook

Photo Credit: Peter Franklin | Daily Texan Staff

The Baylor Bears (24-0, 11-0 Big 12) are having the best year in school history and are showing no signs of slowing down as they cruise through their conference schedule.

The Bears, whose perfect record leaves them and Green Bay as the only undefeated teams left in the country, appear unstoppable at this point. They have won each of their last six games by at least 27 points and lead the Big 12 in 13 of the 21 team statistics.

Baylor’s incredible success has been no surprise to Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton.

“They have a roster full of McDonald’s All-Americans,” Pingeton said. “They have a high basketball IQ and great athleticism. They have explosiveness and quickness. They can guard on the perimeter and they can score a variety of ways.”

The Bears have already defeated each of the seven teams left on their schedule and, barring a couple huge upsets, should have no trouble holding on to their No. 1 ranking as the season comes to a close.

Griner still conference Player of the Year Favorite

Brittney Griner, who was named preseason Big 12 Player of the Year for the second consecutive year at the start of the season, appears to be a lock to win the award come March.

The Baylor post has had her way with opposing defenses this year, averaging a conference-leading 23 points a game while shooting 63 percent from the field. Her 128 blocks lead the nation and her average of 9.7 rebounds a game makes her and Iowa State post Chelsea Poppens the only two Big 12 players averaging a double-double.

“(Brittney) Griner has gotten better every year,” said Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale after her team’s loss to the Bears on Monday night. “That summer that she spent with USA Basketball is obviously paying off. She is a much more mature player, has so much more depth to her and so many more things she can do.”

Griner became the first player in NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball history to score 2000 points and record 500 blocks over the course of their career in a win over Kansas State on Saturday afternoon.

Big 12 continues to be best conference in the nation

We are now through more than three quarters of the regular season and deep into conference play, and the Big 12 is proving to be the toughest league in the country.

The conference leads the nation in both the Jeff Sagarin and College Basketball News’ RPI ratings. It is the only conference with each of its team’s strength of schedule in the top 80 and Big 12 teams lead the nation with a .868 winning percentage against nonconference opponents. One nonconference game remains as Connecticut travels to Oklahoma on Feb. 12.

With the exception of undefeated Baylor on top and winless Missouri at the bottom of the standings, competition within the conference has been incredibly close all year. More than half the games in conference play have been decided by single digits, and 14 have been won by a margin of five or less.

“The Big 12 is such a war and we’re so evenly balanced throughout the conference,” said Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors. “Many of the games are going to come down to the wire. There are going to be a lot of games that are going to be decided by six points or less. If the teams that can execute down the stretch hit their free throws and make the big plays, they’re going to win the big games.”

Printed on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 as: Baylor still undefeated, dominating in Big 12