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 most recent article in this series here. Next up: The 2013 offseason.
During the summer of 2013, twenty-three Division I schools saw a change at their respective head coaching positions. Six Power Five schools named a new leader ahead of the 2014 season; the group included Auburn; Arizona State; Georgia Tech; Penn State; Purdue; and Virginia. The ACC and Big Ten led the Power 5 conferences with two coaching changes each from their respective leagues.
Four coaches who were named to a position as part of the 2013 edition of the Carousel still hold those same positions today. That number includes Steve Johnson at Utah State; Dot Richardson at Liberty; Kristi Stefanoni at UMass; and Amy Tudor at Western Kentucky. Amanda Lehotak also held her position at the helm of Penn State from the summer of 2013 through the completion of the 2020 season, but recently departed her role with the Nittany Lions.
Legendary UMass head coach Elaine Sortino passed away in August of 2013 after a battle with cancer. One of the most well-respected figures in the game, Sortino led the Minutewomen to three Women’s College World Series appearances during her career, and was the victor of nearly 1,200 games. Associate head coach and program alumna Stefanoni took over the program on an interim basis for the 2014 season.
Inarguably, the biggest move of the 2013 offseason was 2-time National Champion head coach Clint Myers departing the Arizona State program to take over at Auburn. Myers was just two years removed from his second-career national title, and the Sun Devils were riding a streak of three consecutive Women’s College World Series; a desire to coach with his family was listed as Myers’ biggest draw to take the helm of the Tigers’ program. Although his tenure at Auburn ultimately ended with scandal, Myers vaulted the program to new heights under his leadership, including back-to-back Women’s College World Series appearances in 2015 and ’16.
Myers’ departure from Arizona State set off a chain reaction that included some wildly-successful coaches. Ball State head coach Craig Nicholson was hired to take over the Sun Devils’ program, where he would spend two years before departing. Tyra Perry was named in his stead at Ball State, though she spent just one season with the Cardinals before taking off for Illinois. Amy Tudor followed Perry as the head coach at Western Kentucky, where she has guided the Hilltoppers to perennial contender status in Conference USA.
The summer of 2013 saw Dot Richardson hired as the head coach at Liberty. Richardson, one of the most decorated players in softball history, was a national champion at UCLA and an Olympic gold medalist with Team USA. She left behind a career in orthopedic surgery to take the helm of the Flames’ program, and has turned the team into a perennial contender. Four years after her hiring, in 2017, she guided her team to the inaugural National Invitational Softball Championship postseason title.
Some footnotes on the 2013 Carousel:
- Melissa Gentile was named the head coach at Eastern Michigan. She would ultimately be the last head coach in EMU program history, as the program was eliminated just a few years later.
- Montana hired Jamie Pinkerton as head coach. Pinkerton was charged with starting the Griz softball program, and would go on to lead the squad to a conference title and NCAA tournament berth in 2017, just their third season of play.
- Six head coaches that were hired during the 2013 offseason also spent the 2020 season as Division I head coaches, but at different schools.