Daugherty's future at UW uncertain
The Washington women's basketball coach has an 18-win team and likely is headed back to the NCAA tournament. That may not be enough to save her job.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Before the season started, Washington women's basketball coach June Daugherty's message to her team was frank and unambiguous.
"There are going to be stories written about my future here," Daugherty told her players. "But we need to focus on this season. The contract is not a worry of mine and it shouldn't be a worry of yours."
There is something wrong with this picture.
After 11 seasons, Daugherty's future at Washington is in jeopardy. Her contract is up, yet there isn't one glaring error she has made. There hasn't been one rock bottom year, since going 8-22 in 1999-2000, that has placed her out on this ledge.
Daugherty graduates her players. None of them get in trouble. None are out buying mushrooms. And the list of lawyers and coaches and successes among her former players is impressive.
Her team has won 18 games this season. It finished fourth in the Pac-10 regular season and almost certainly is headed for the NCAA tournament, the Huskies' sixth trip in 11 seasons under Daugherty. And her incoming recruiting class is rated by most services among the nation's top 10.
But Daugherty is in trouble. Saturday's 61-46 win over Oregon may have been her last game at Edmundson Pavilion.
Athletic director Todd Turner hasn't given her a vote of confidence, or given her the boot. He said a decision on her future won't be made until after the season.
"June is an awesome representative of Washington," Turner said late last week. "She's a great speaker. She's highly positive when people see her. Her players are good young people and they're doing reasonably well competitively.
"Can we do more? Yeah, obviously we can do more. We've lost 11 games. What I have to evaluate is, 'Is there excitement around the program?' Winning is part of the excitement. It is part of being a coach at a premier college. The expectation I have for the women's program is that it would compete for championships."
The Huskies are good, but not great, which has been the story of Daugherty's tenure.
"The jury's still out on this season," Turner said. "We're still playing. We've had some great moments and we've had some moments when we disappointed."
There were fewer disappointments in the years preceding Daugherty, the Chris Gobrecht years.
Gobrecht's timing was perfect. She came to Seattle before the WNBA and when the men's program was going through coaches the way John Daly goes through smokes.
She caught a perfect storm. And she won. For six seasons, in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, her teams averaged 24.5 wins a year. She won at least 21 games in eight of her 11 seasons.
Daugherty's teams have more than 20 games twice.
"That was a really special time," said Oregon assistant coach Willette White, who was an assistant under Gobrecht from 1986-93. "We had kids from Seattle, first of all. And we had kids who just were very, very passionate. Seattle, at that time, just fell in love with Washington women's basketball.
"It was the thing to do at that point. We started in the little gym with about 250 people watching our game, and then we got to the point — remember that Stanford game where the fire marshal tried to shut us down? It was amazing that it just kind of took off here."
It may be unfair to compare because times have changed in Seattle, but Daugherty hasn't connected with the community in the same way. And even many of her former Washington players will admit that, in recruiting, she hasn't "owned her own backyard."
Arizona State, for instance, starts an all-Northwest lineup and has been ranked in the Top 10 all season. And in the richest season in Washington high-school history, the top-four rated girls in the recruiting class are going to Tennessee, Georgia Tech, UCLA and Gonzaga.
Turner is watching all of this with a keen eye. He has high expectations. He's used to winning big. He was athletic director at Connecticut and is a close friend of its iconic women's coach, Geno Auriemma.
Turner has spent his career around many of the best women's coaches in the business — Debbie Ryan at Virginia, Kay Yow at North Carolina State and Jimmy Foster at Vanderbilt.
"Watching what Geno was able to do at Connecticut," Turner said, "gives me a lot of encouragement that with college-oriented communities of some size, if you do it right, and you're good and you have a critical mass of people, you can make it work."
Against Oregon on Saturday, Daugherty was animated on the bench, often crouching in a defensive position, clapping her hands, shouting instructions. She rarely sat down. She practically played all 40 minutes.
"My job is to make sure we are great teachers of the game," she said. "That our players go to class and graduate. That we follow the NCAA and Pac-10 guidelines. I think we do a good job of that. I think I work hard at marketing the program.
"But I'm not thinking about any of that right now. I think we have an opportunity in front of us to play some really good basketball. It's one of those things where you have no control over other people's decisions or what other people say. All you can do is go to work."
Daugherty has represented the school with all the class and dignity you would expect from a university with Washington's reputation. But has she excited the population? Has she won enough?
Next month Turner will provide the answers.
|What Daugherty's done|
|A look at June Daugherty's 11 seasons as coach of the UW women's basketball team:|
|1996-97||17-11||12-6||NCAA 1st round|
|1997-98||18-10||9-9||NCAA 1st round|
|1998-99||16-13||11-7||WNIT 2nd round|
|1999-00||8-22||4-14||UW's 500th win|
|2000-01||22-10||12-6||NCAA Elite Eight*|
|2001-02||19-12||12-6||WNIT 3rd round|
|2002-03||22-8||13-5||NCAA 1st round|
|2003-04||18-13||9-9||WNIT 2nd round|
|2005-06||19-11||11-7||NCAA 2nd round|
|2006-07||18-11||11-7||4th in Pac-10|
|* — Pac-10 champions|
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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