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Tuesday, October 20

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Revisiting the 2012 Coaching Carousel

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The softball Coaching Carousel is a popular topic every summer. Hirings and firings, resignations and retirements; whatever the precursor to a particular move, even small schools and lower divisions catch attention when a coaching transaction happens.

We decided to take a look back at some of the Coaching Carousels of years past. Check out the first article in this series here. Next up: The 2012 offseason.

For the second year in a row, thirty-one Division I schools went through a head coaching change during the summer of 2012. Just three Power Five schools were on the hunt for a new leader leading into the 2013 season, including North Carolina State; Ohio State; and Oregon State.

Of those thirty-one head coaching new hires made during the 2012 offseason, ten coaches remain in the same positions at the present time. That group includes Kelly Ford at Cal State Fullerton; Jeff Breeden at Middle Tennessee State; Kara Amundson at Murray State; Kelly Kovach-Schoenly at Ohio State; Laura Berg at Oregon State; Lisa Van Ackeren at Princeton; Paige Smith at Seton Hall; Janelle Breneman at UNC-Greensboro; Kristy Norton at UNC-Wilmington; and Jen Goodwin at Yale. An 11th, Clarisa Crowell, was also included in this group from her tenure at Miami Ohio, before she recently departed for a new position.

The 2012 offseason also marked the retirement of one of the game’s bonafide legends, Margie Wright, who retired after 26 years at Fresno State. Wright’s tenure included more than 1,450 victories and the 1998 Women’s College World Series title. Two years later, Fresno State honored Wright by naming their home field after her; the Bulldogs now compete at Margie Wright Diamond.

Trisha Ford took over for Wright, and continued Fresno State’s success for four years before taking the head coaching position at Arizona State. Ford’s own eventual replacement at Fresno, Linda Garza, was also part of the 2012 Coaching Carousel, as she was named the head coach at UC-Riverside. This was one of two similar patterns during this edition of the Carousel (the other: Lisa Dodd/UNLV and Kristie Fox/UT-Arlington; Fox would later succeed Dodd in leading the Rebels’ program).

Also during the 2012 offseason, Mickey Dean moved from Radford to James Madison; he would lead the Dukes to unprecedented heights during his time at JMU, including a pair of Super Regional berths. The program recorded a winning percentage of better than .800 during his five years at the helm.

Perhaps the most underrated head coaching hire of this edition of the Coaching Carousel was Cal State Fullerton’s addition of Kelly Ford. At the time, Ford was a highly-successful junior college coach with nearly a decade’s worth of prior experience as a Division I assistant. Since her hiring, the Titans have been one of the steadiest mid-major programs in the nation, and have continued their legacy as perennial contenders. Ford’s club entered the 2020 season riding a streak of four consecutive Big West conference titles.

Some footnotes on the 2012 Carousel:

  • Kathy Bocock was elevated to the full-time head coaching role at Elon during this offseason; she spent the previous season as the program’s interim head coach.
  • The UCLA full-time coaching staff that took shape during this offseason – comprised of Kelly Inouye-Perez, Lisa Fernandez, and Kirk Walker – ranks in the top 15 nationally as one of the longest-tenured coaching units in Division I.
  • Seven head coaches that were hired during the 2012 offseason also spent the 2020 season as Division I head coaches, but at different schools.
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