As part of our preseason coverage, we’ll take a conference-by-conference look at the summer’s coaching moves and the impact the Coaching Carousel will have on each league specifically.
The ASun has been one of the biggest leagues in the grand scheme of things this summer, officially adding three new members on July 1 and staying busy in the realignment world thereafter; Austin Peay is set to become the newest ASun program in 2022.
From a softball perspective, the coaching carousel in the ASun focused more on volume than headline-making name-dropping. Two schools changed hands at the head coaching position – Stetson and new member Central Arkansas – while that pair and an additional five programs saw changes within their assistant coaching staffs.
Stetson promoted Shellie Robinson to the head coaching position after a summer-long search, and the only indictable aspect of the whole process was ‘what took them so long?’ A DeLand native, Robinson was the biggest home run that the Hatters could hit to fill their head coaching role. Yes, she’s young and has never been a head coach before, but she’s got a great softball mind and, coaching in her hometown, is the easiest bet for a long-term answer for the program. Stetson has quality facilities and there’s no reason that Robinson and the Hatters shouldn’t be a bigger challenger in the conference.
Even though Central Arkansas joined the ASun halfway through the summer, the program’s transactions and happenings count toward their new league’s offseason tally. That includes the Bears’ promotion of Jenny Parsons to their head coaching position. Parsons spent the better part of a decade as the top assistant at UCA and was an obvious and easy choice to take over the program when David Kuhn departed. Parsons works with the team’s pitching staff and was the head coach at Nicholls State before initially joining UCA, so she also checks the head coaching experience box. Considering the Bears are poised to be a contender right away in the ASun, and given their current depth in the pitching circle as a major strength, had the program even considered anyone other than Parsons for the job, it would have been a misstep.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 2-0 for ASun teams in the head coaching hires category. Now, abotu those assistants…
Bellarmine, UCA, Florida Gulf Coast, Kennesaw State, Liberty, North Florida, and Stetson all saw changes in their assistant coaching staffs this summer. FGCU and Stetson had complete overhauls of their assistant coaching staffs, while Liberty and North Florida saw change in their volunteer assistant positions.
It’s not easy to pull off a solid slate of hires in the assistant ranks, but impressively, the ASun made quality hires virtually across the board. Veteran assistants, a former head coach, multiple professional players, and even recently-graduated standouts were part of the new crop of assistants joining the league.
The A+ hire of the summer in the assistant ranks was also the quickest one – Central Arkansas’ promotion of Kayla Lucas from volunteer assistant to a full-time role. An Arkansas native and former head coach at D2 Young Harris – where she had considerable success – Lucas knows her softball and is a home run of a hire for Parsons’ inaugural full-time staff.
Former Radford assistant Megan Hill joined the Kennesaw State staff, while former Mercer pitching coach Mollie Hanson found a new home at FGCU. Bellarmine and Stetson – two programs still building and looking to jockey for position in the conference race – checked the boxes that were important to them in their new hires; Bellarmine gained strong regional ties and recent playing experience in EKU graduate Mollie Paulick, while Stetson went the alumni route in adding recently-graduated outfielder Elizabeth Jackson as an assistant coach.
Former Athletes Unlimited players Sami Fagan (AU season 1) and Gina Snyder (AU season 2) have new coaching roles this season. Fagan, who enjoyed an All-American playing career at Missouri and played professionally for several seasons prior to Athletes Unlimited, joined the staff at Liberty as volunteer assistant. Fagan joined older sister Kasey, who is a full-time assistant for the Flames. Snyder spent the 2021 season on staff at Jacksonville, but moved across town to become North Florida’s volunteer assistant this summer. Snyder played at Purdue and Arizona during her own collegiate days and participated in Athletes Unlimited this summer.
There aren’t any irredeemable coaching hires in the ASun this year. Some may make more sense than others, but from where I’m sitting, this looks like a league that is primed and ready to realize it’s strength on the softball diamond on a regular basis.