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Revisiting the 2017 Coaching Carousel, Part 1

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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.

Recently, we decided to take a look back at some of the Coaching Carousels of years past. Check out our previous Revisiting articles here:

Next up: the 2017 Carousel. In the first part of this edition of the Carousel, we’ll look at some of the hires that were ultimately overshadowed by the headline-grabbing moves of the year. Part 2 of this Revisiting will later explore the “big dogs” of the 2017 offseason.

Even though three or four moves dominated the headlines in 2017, some moves that flew under the radar have paid dividends for their respective teams. Take Indiana, for instance. When the Hoosiers decided to move on from Michelle Gardner, they raised some eyebrows when they were able to pry Shonda Stanton away from Marshall. Stanton’s lengthy tenure with the Thundering Herd saw impressive success for that program, and in her first two years in Bloomington, the program reached new levels. In year one, the team performed to incredibly-high levels in conference play following a so-so non-conference portion of the season, then reversed the effect in year two, looking like world-beaters in non-conference play before failing to meet expectations against Big 10 opponents that year. In just her first few years with the program, Stanton has Indiana in conference contention.

Austin Peay hired Rodney Delong as head coach this offseason, his first Division I head coaching position. Delong immediately led the Governors to 39 wins, the #2 seed in the conference tournament, and a berth in the National Invitational Softball Championship postseason tournament. Delong spent just one year at APSU before moving on to North Texas, but his single season in Clarksville earned the Govs status as a perennial championship contender in the OVC.

Aileen Morales returned to her alma mater of Georgia Tech to begin to rebuild the Yellow Jackets’ program. After a stint as head coach at Radford, Morales was an easy front-runner to return to Atlanta to attempt to get the program back to relevance in the ACC and on the national scene.

Kristie Fox took over at UNLV after a successful stint at UT-Arlington; the former Arizona standout was billed as one of the game’s top young coaching talents upon her hiring, and has delivered since she got to Las Vegas, leading the Rebels to perennial contender status in the Mountain West and posting 90 wins in three years since her hiring.

James Inzana (Norfolk State), Lauren Cognigni Karn (Oakland), and Marissa Lamison-Myers (Colgate) each quietly assumed the helm of their respective programs this offseason, and each of the three have done a quality job in the three years since that time. All three have turned their programs around and produced some solid player development in a short time.

Two coaches hired during this edition of the Carousel saw upheaval within their programs during this most recent, COVID-affected summer. After three years at Wright State, Laura Matthews’ program had the rug pulled out from under them, shut down due to reported budget cuts. Just one state away, Brooke Darreff will coach La Salle through the 2021 season, which will be their final year of existence due to a department downsizing.

Some additional statistics on the Carousel Class of 2017 as a whole:

  • 75% of the head coaches who were hired during this offseason remain in the same jobs in the present day.
  • Four coaches hired during this offseason will enter the 2021 season as head coaches at a different Division I program.
  • A quartet of coaches spent the following season in interim head coaching roles; two of the coaches, Wally King at Furman and Beth Golitko at Western Illinois, were later elevated to the same roles on a full-time basis.

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