High Profile Coach Fourth To Interview For AU Job

A fourth candidate for the Auburn coaching job visited the AU campus on Friday.

Auburn, Ala.--Auburn interviewed its third and fourth candidates for the vacant women's basketball head coaching position on Friday.

Current assistant head coach Joanie O'Brien was the third person to interview for the job held by her boss Joe Ciampi, who is retiring after 25 years as head coach of the Tigers.

After that interview was completed, AU officials interviewed one of the most successful coaches in women's college coaching, Wendy Larry, head coach of the Old Dominion Lady Monarchs. She led her team to a 25-7 record this past season and her 13th consecutive conference title at the Virginia school.

Larry has led ODU to the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament in each of her 16 seasons as head coach. In 19 years as a head coach, her record is 453-164.

Coach Wendy Larry

From 1995-2001, her ODU team won 113 consecutive conference regular season and postseason conference games. She has won eight conference coach of the year awards in three different leagues and was named National Coach of the Year in 1997.

She began her college coaching career with a 19-4 record in 1978-79 at Virginia Wesleyan and got her first Division I head coaching job in 1985-86 and posted a 19-9 mark that year at Arizona. She is originally from Bloomingdale, N.J., and started her coaching career at Cape Henry Collegiate High in Virginia Beach, Va., after playing collegiately at ODU.

ODU lost in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament. In 2003 the Lady Monarchs reached the Elite Eight before losing to eventual national champion UConn and Larry's most successful team was the 1997 national runnerup to Tennessee.

On Thursday, Auburn officials conducted an on-campus interview with Southwest Missouri State head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. She led her Lady Bears to a 28-4 record and the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and postseason tournament titles this past season, her second as a head coach. Her first team posted an 18-13 record and won the MVC conference tournament.

Abrahamson-Henderson has a reputation as a strong recruiter in addition to her on the floor coaching skills.

On Wednesday, ESPN women's basketball analyst and former U.S. women's basketball team Olympic coach Nell Fortner interviewed for the Auburn job. Fortner was the head coach for season at Purdue and before that was an assistant at Louisiana Tech and Stephen F. Austin.

Ciampi, one of the more successful coaches in Auburn history, announced his retirement following the 2003-2004 season. He is the only women's basketball coach that Auburn has had in the NCAA era of women's hoops. He led the Tigers to three national runnerup finishes.

Ciampi led the Tigers to regular season SEC titles in 1987, 1988 and 1989 and SEC Tournament titles in 1981, 1987, 1989 and 1993. His Auburn teams won 20 games during 18 seasons. He coached 36 All-SEC players and seven All-Americans plus U.S. Olympians Ruthie Bolton, Carolyn Jones and Vickie Orr.

O'Brien coached at Auburn for Ciampi from 1986-91 before leaving for the head coaching job at UMass. She inherited a winless team and took it to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances and one NWIT bid. She was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 1995, however, she was fired after three straight losing seasons. Her record at UMass was 159-159.

The 1986 Penn State graduate and former player for the Nittany Lions was hired by Auburn last May as assistant head coach to Ciampi. She has a master's degree in education from Auburn earned in 1988. At his press conference announcing that he was retiring as coach, Ciampi said he would like to see O'Brien replace him as head coach.

As was the case with the men's coaching candidates, they are meeting with AU president Dr. Ed Richardson, who will make the decision on who will be hired with input from his special assistant, Hal Baird. Barbara Camp, the associate athletic director for women's sports at AU, is also helping Baird with the search.

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