Despite reports that UCLA women's basketball head coach Nikki Caldwell was in Charlottesville interviewing for the vacant head coaching position last week, LSU announced Saturday night that Caldwell will be the Tigers' next coach. This leaves the Virginia women's basketball head coaching position still open, even though Athletic Director Craig Littlepage has reportedly made attempts to lure in Caldwell and South Carolina's head coach (and former Virginia standout) Dawn Staley to Virginia.
This is somewhat of a surprising move to me, considering that Caldwell is a former Tennessee Lady Volunteer, as both a player and as an assistant coach, where she won national titles in both capacities. She was a fan favorite to be next in line for the day Pat Summitt steps down, so choosing to become head coach at another SEC school seems to put a damper on that (I haven't seen the contract, but I assume there would be certain limitations to immediately becoming a head coach at another SEC school).
In any event, the question now, of course, is: what happens to Virginia? This coaching search has gone on longer than I honestly expected. It was announced on March 12 that Debbie Ryan would be stepping down. From everything I could tell, there seemed to have been a little bit of pressure on Ryan to do so, rather than a move entirely of her own volition. The emotional nights coaching the women in the NIT appeared to confirm this. If so, then you'd think the University would have had at least a couple people suitable in mind.
I wonder if money is playing a big role in this. Ryan was one of the most well-paid coaches at Virginia ($700,000 - $900,000) -- deserved for her multiple Final Four appearances, but questioned by those on the outside based on her performance this year and before, and the team's seeming underperformance. UCLA had reportedly offered Caldwell an attractive multi-year contract. Perhaps Virginia just is not interested in spending the tpe of cash they used to be on a new women's basketball headcoach.
Virginia's head coaching position, previously held by Debbie Ryan, remains open.