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Originally published April 5, 2011 at 9:19 PM | Page modified April 5, 2011 at 10:13 PM

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Huskies' women's basketball coach puts program in new stratus

Kevin McGuff will be the highest-paid women's basketball coach in school history. He has a five-year deal worth $475,000 guaranteed annually.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Goose bumps?

Those haven't been associated with Washington women's basketball recently. Yet, when Kevin McGuff walked into a meeting with his new team, leading scorer Kristi Kingma was more animated than a Justin Bieber fan.

"It's like meeting a famous person," said Kingma of McGuff, the former Xavier coach whose best finish was a trip to the Elite Eight in 2010. "He walks in the room and he commands your respect, he commands your attention. It's his presence, the way he talks and his personality. I have goose bumps, I'm so excited to play for him."

McGuff was formally introduced Tuesday. The 41-year-old native of Ohio becomes the first male coach in the program's 37-year history.

His goal is to return the Huskies to their golden 1980s form, when UW regularly challenged powerhouse Stanford and packed Edmundson Pavilion with paying fans.

McGuff replaces Tia Jackson, who resigned in March with a 45-75 combined record after four seasons.

"He's a really cool, laid-back guy," UW junior Mollie Williams said of her first impression. "We enjoyed our time with Coach J and we all had our special relationships with her, but I'm really excited to get to know Coach McGuff. Especially since I'm staying here for the summer, I want to see how things work out so I can have a bang-out last year."

The hope is Washington is being ushered into the big leagues, not simply into a new era as it joins the new Pac-12 conference in 2011-2012.

McGruff will be the highest-paid women's basketball coach in school history. He has a five-year deal worth $475,000 guaranteed annually. Jackson was paid a $180,000 base salary annually, and $280,000 guaranteed.

Women's college basketball has seen soaring salaries despite an inability to generate positive revenue. Washington, which was already operating in the red, enters that realm.

Athletic director Scott Woodward knew he might have to spend more to lure a credible coach.

Gonzaga recently extended Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves' contract to a 10-year deal with a mid-six-figure annual salary.

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Tennessee's Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA men's and women's basketball, is the highest paid, at more than $2 million, according to USA Today.

"We wanted to pay market, but not pay crazy," Woodward said. "We have expectations and hopefully with fans coming back, it'll ameliorate that difference in what we have to invest.

"The fiscal considerations were not paramount. They were a factor. But it was getting this program back and being successful and winning at the highest level. That was the most important thing. Fiscal considerations were part of that whole mix."

McGuff intends to earn his keep. Storm coach Brian Agler is a friend, an Ohioan who regularly watched Xavier's practices during the WNBA offseason, and McGuff noted how that team was able to root itself in the community to draw an average of 7,800 fans over 11 seasons.

Drawing Washington followers back after four years of turmoil — ranging from blowout losses to player transfers — won't be easy. UW only loses one senior, but the remaining players haven't experienced a winning season since high school.

"It starts with us putting the right product on the court," McGuff said. "As the head coach, I need to be the face of the program and reach out to people. If you look at what the Storm has done, people really, really wanted to be part of something special here. History has shown that and I'm really optimistic that people are going to come back and support us."

Notes

• McGuff expects to bring at least one coach from his Xavier staff with him to Washington, but is waiting to see if any are tapped as his replacement. He's also looking at West Coast candidates, possibly former players like Rhonda (Smith) Banchero and Jamie Redd, who were both in attendance Tuesday.

Stephanie Rempe, UW senior associate athletic director, said she spoke with the Huskies' three incoming recruits and they all plan to honor their national letters of intent.

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com

Huskies coaches
Kevin McGuff is Washington's ninth women's basketball coach. The first eight:
Coach Years W-L Pct
Christine Burkhart 1974-75 11-11 .500
Kathie Neir 1975-79 82-31 .726
Pat Dobratz 1979-80 14-14 .500
Sue Kruszewski 1980-83 50-34 .595
Joyce Sake 1983-85 43-10 .811
Chris Gobrecht 1985-96 243-89 .732
June Daugherty 1996-2007 191-139 .579
Tia Jackson 2007-11 45-75 .375

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