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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

When Coaches Speak: Grading the Hires

(When Coaches Speak is a series of articles where active coaches will give their thoughts on their own teams, as well as current happenings in the game and offer thoughts on their peers, always in their own words.)

I spoke to quite a number of coaches throughout this offseason. Many of them were not for specific articles or anything in particular, but merely a "shoot the breeze" conversation prior to the season's start.

As part of many of these conversations, I gave these coaches the opportunity to chime in with their thoughts on the head coaching changes of the offseason. I asked them which move they liked the most, which move they didn't like, and which new coach they found the most interesting and intriguing.

Each coach was guaranteed anonymity in exchange for his/her open and honest thoughts. Coaches had to receive more than three votes to be listed.

The Good Hires, according to a tabulation of more than 100 coaches' votes.
Jamie Trachsel, Iowa State - 32 votes
Trisha Ford, Arizona State - 27 votes
Robert Wagner, South Dakota - 15 votes
James DeFeo, George Washington - 9 votes
Pete D'Amour, Kennesaw State - 5 votes

Trachsel and Ford were popular choices in this category across the board - several coaches who ultimately cast their votes for another coach often mentioned the Cyclones or Sun Devils' new leaders.

Interestingly enough, Trachsel; Ford; DeFeo; and Wagner all took their new positions in a parallel move from another head coaching position. Trachsel had been co-head coach at North Dakota State, while DeFeo was previously head coach at Mercer and Wagner spent the 2016 season as the co-interim head coach at Arizona State. Ford moved to Arizona State after serving as head coach at Fresno State.

The Bad Hires, according to a tabulation of more than 100 coaches' votes.
Boo De Oliveira, Purdue - 43 votes
Nikki Palmer, UC-Riverside - 21 votes
Joanna Hardin, Virginia - 11 votes
James Landreneau, McNeese State - 7 votes
Linda Garza, Fresno State - 6 votes

Former Arizona State and Arkansas assistant De Oliveira (nee Gillette) was a frequent mention on this side of the voting. One coach noted the list of reported finalists for the position, including DJ Sanchez who ultimately wound up at Omaha and Scott Hall of Butler and questioned "hiring an unproven assistant coach instead of those candidates."

Palmer and her 45-126 career record moving to Riverside, California was a move that received a lot of discussion among the coaches polled.

The "Interesting" Hires, according to a tabulation of more than 100 coaches' votes.
Robert Wagner, South Dakota - 22 votes
Trisha Ford, Arizona State - 15 votes
DJ Sanchez, Omaha - 13 votes
Lynn Curylo, UIC - 10 votes
Brian Levin, Belmont - 8 votes
Joanna Hardin, Virginia - 8 votes
Pete D'Amour, Kennesaw State - 5 votes
Boo De Oliveira, Purdue - 4 votes

Nearly every coach hired this offseason - 27 of 30 - received at least one vote in this category. Wagner, the former Arizona State interim co-head coach moving to the chilly climate of South Dakota and taking over a program that was not on a downward slope was a move that intrigued many coaches. One coach said that he "expected good things" from the Coyotes, but wanted to reserve a final opinion until they saw the on-field product.

Ford moving from Fresno State to Arizona State and DJ Sanchez, an in-demand candidate for multiple positions this offseason, both were popular choices in this category. Multiple coaches expressed that they were more interested in how well Ford would do in her new location more than if she would.

Lynn Curylo rejoining her alma mater of UIC from a previously-solid position leading Wright State was another move that earned a lot of votes for "most intriguing". After success leading Wright State and an unplanned departure this offseason, the consensus opinion among the coaches polled was an expectation of success in Chicago, as well.

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Our annual Justin's World of Softball Coaching Grades will be released later this week. Be sure to check back to see what our experts think. Do they agree with the coaches' choices?

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