Four Candidates In the Hunt For Auburn Job

A quartet of candidates are being considered to replace retiring women's basketball head coach Joe Ciampi.

Auburn, Ala.--The last time anybody other than Joe Ciampi was in charge of the Auburn women's basketball program Jimmy Carter was president of the United States, Joe Cribbs was the star for Doug Barfield's Auburn football team and two of Auburn's current head coaches, swimming's David Marsh and baseball's Steve Renfroe, were standout competitors for their Auburn teams.

This week Auburn University interim president Dr. Ed Richardson is expected to announce his selection to replace Ciampi, who announced his retirement after a quarter of a century as a basketball coach for the Tigers. After interviewing three head coaches from other colleges as well as Ciampi's top assistant, Joanie O'Brien, Auburn officials are expected to name a new women's basketball coach this week.

The fourth and final coach to be interviewed was Wendy Larry, who met with Auburn officials and toured the campus on Friday. She led Old Dominion, a long-time power in women's basketball, to a 25-7 record this past season. She directed the Lady Monarchs to the conference title for the 13th consecutive season in 2003-2004.

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

Coach Wendy Larry

From 1995-2001, her ODU teams 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. Larry 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 begin 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. She played on two Big 10 championship teams at the University of Iowa, where she received her undergraduate degree in 1990. In 1991, she played for a pro team in New Zealand, helping her squad to the league finals.

Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson

She played her first two seasons of college basketball for Andy Landers at the University of Georgia before transferring to Iowa City. She began her coaching career as an assistant at Duquesne, where she earned a master's degree in 1992. Other assistant coaching stops for the Cedar Rapids, Iowa native include Iowa State, Maine and Michigan State where she was part of some of the most successful teams in those college's women's hoops history.

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

Nell Fortner

She spent three seasons coaching in the WNBA where she posted a 42-56 record with Indiana. Fortner compiled a 101-14 record as head coach of the U.S. Olympic Team, leading the squad to the 2000 Olympic gold medal in Australia.

In her one season as a head women's basketball coach in college at Purdue, she posted a 17-11 record and tied for the Big Ten championship. Fortner, who is originally from Jackson, Miss., is a 1982 graduate of the University of Texas. She began her coaching career as the girls basketball coach at Killeen, Tex., High School and moved into college coaching as a graduate assistant at Stephen F. Austin during the 1986-87 season while earning a master's degree in education. She was an assistant there for three seasons as SFA posted an 87-12 record and made three NCAA Tournament appearances. Fortner moved to Louisiana Tech as an assistant to highly successful coach Leon Barmore and those teams posted a 123-37 record and made five trips to the NCAA Tournament.

Joanie O'Brien

Current assistant head coach Joanie O'Brien interviewed for the job last Friday and like the other candidates she has head coaching experience. She coached at Auburn for Ciampi from 1986-91 before leaving for the head coaching job at UMass. She inherited a team that was 0-28 the previous season and steadily built it to respectability. She took UMass to its first two NCAA Tournament appearances and one NWIT while upgrading the schedule by taking on strong teams outside of the conference. 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.

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