Todd Turner talks about women's hoops coaching

Vanderbilt Athletic Director <STRONG>Todd Turner</STRONG> met with the media Sunday afternoon in McGugin Center to talk about the resignation of Jim Foster as women's basketball coach and the upcoming search for a new coach. Vandymania was there, and here's what was said:

The Press: How much of a shock was this?

Vanderbilt Athletic Director Todd Turner: I think from a personal standpoint it's a bit of a shock because Jim and I are very close, and he's had a great career at Vanderbilt. I am just kind of surprised that he wasn't feeling as motivated and fulfilled as he was at one time. Personally, I was surprised. Professionally, I understand that sometimes it's very difficult to be in one place for a long time, and you need another challenge. At the end of the day after I spent a lot of time talking with him through this process, it was clear to me that it wasn't about Vanderbilt, it wasn't about the team, it wasn't about money, it wasn't about anything in Nashville. It was Jim. He felt like he just needed to have another challenge, another change -- and I respect that.

The Press: Did you try to convince him otherwise at all?

Turner: I tried really hard. We had a very good meeting late yesterday with the Chancellor, and Vice Chancellor David Williams and myself and Brad Bates with Jim and Donna. We talked to them for a long time and made sure they understood how Vanderbilt felt about them as a couple and certainly as a basketball coach. I was motivated, I can tell you, after hearing our Chancellor talk about our program and what we're trying to achieve here. . . .But I think it's just a time in his life where he needed a different set of challenges.

The Press: What about the assistant coaches?

Turner: We haven't talked a lot about that just yet. I would expect that they have an opportunity to go with him to Ohio State, if that's what he wants.

The Press: (inaudible)

Turner: I don't really want to comment on our search. I've done this too many times since I've been here, and I think you know that we'll be very quiet about what we're doing, but I will also be extremely aggressive in trying to find a coach that's equal to the caliber of Coach Foster, that's a good fit for Vanderbilt. Sometimes when disappointments happen, it opens up opportunities, and we'll look upon this as a great way to improve.

The Press: Have you checked your fax machine? Are the resumes already starting to come in?

Turner: One thing that's for sure about what Coach Foster has left us, is that we have a great job here. This is a premier job in the United States. We have possibly the best player in the United States coming back to play for us. We have an incredible committment to basketball that is visible in our facilities. We've got great leadership in Gordon Gee, and we play in the toughest league in America. So I think it's a great opportunity for us to hire an exceptional coach.

The Press: Does that make your job easier, just Vanderbilt and what's here? You don't have to sell this job to anybody.

Turner: I've always felt like selling Vanderbilt was an easy thing to do. It's a quality place. Selling Vanderbilt women's basketball should be even more exciting because of the positions that we've established there and the fact that we've got such a great team here. I'm excited about it. I think it will be fun to do, and I think at the end of the day, we'll end up with a coach that will keep us moving.

The Press: With the SEC's position in women's basketball, do you believe that Vanderbilt is one of those pinnacle jobs in the field, and if somebody's here, they wouldn't want to go?

Turner: Yeah, just look at it from a professional standpoint. That's probably true, but you can never tell what's in a person's heart or what motivates them. And people change. People like to have different challenges, so you can never say that it would never occur. Steve Spurrier wouldn't have left the University of Florida if people didn't do that. So we'll just move on and try to improve, and I'm looking forward to making that happen.

The Press: Coach had a lot of freshmen come in and play right away. Is there any concern on your part that they'll say, "Well, I came here for Coach Foster. I'm going to go somewhere else?"

Turner: You're always worried about that, but I think the quality of our university is part of the reason they came as well, and the fact that we have a good team returning that's promising to our young players and knowing too that we're going to go out and hire an exceptional leader. I think they'll be patient.

The Press: Will you try to keep the same style? I know you like to keep candidates close to the vest, but will you go "We like the way you ran the team" and try to find somebody who's either been in system before or somebody like him?

Turner: I'm not really set on a particular system. You can win with many different kinds of systems. I'm more interested in the person fitting what we're all about and being effective at what they do. So whether they hold the ball and like to play the delay game or run it up and down the floor, that's not as important as getting the right fit.

The Press: What kind of time pressure are you under?

Turner: Fortunately, I think our timing is a lot less pressurized than it would be, say, when we did the football coaching search. Recruiting for us is over, and we've now recruiting and we're now recruiting juniors. Signing date is on Wednesday, so there's not a sense of urgency to respond to that. I would tell you though that from my perspective, and I think from the players that are here, we like to get a coach as quickly as possibly we can, but if that takes a month or more, I'm not going to (inaudible)

The Press: Who is going to be involved in the decision?

Turner: I'm going to meet with the players today. We're going to talk about the profile of the coach they'd like to see with the whistle. I will listen to their suggestions, and as we've done our searches in the past, I've pretty much done that with a small group of people advising me. The university administration will be involved in a very integral way, but you won't hear much about it.

The Press: What's going to happen with the basketball banquet?

Turner: That's a good question. We'll talk about that later today. We'll have to address that. I hope it will be a great celebration of a great career of Jim Foster.

How long have you known that something was in the works, that you might have to be doing a search?

Turner: Probably since Thursday, I think that's the day -- well, I have to take that back. Just before the Final Four, Michelle Willis from Ohio State called and said they'd like to talk to Jim, so I knew that they had some interest prior to the Final Four.

The Press: Are there any sour feelings at all about the way that this ended between you and Jim at all?

Turner: None whatsoever. I have a high regard for Jim. We're great friends. I enjoy his company. He's a very unusual coach, a different kind of a guy. You know that because you've covered him for a long time. He's about as well-rounded an educator/coach as I've ever been around. He's a great fit for Vanderbilt in that regard. He's a little different. Did things a little differently. Wore those shorts in the dead of winter. . . And we've become good colleagues, good friends, and I think we'll remain that way for the rest of our careers.

The Press: He hardly had a chance to enjoy the new offices, in that great facility over there.

Turner: Well, we couldn't get it just right for him. We couldn't get the curtains just right. We've made a huge investment in that, in basketball at Vanderbilt and any coach that looks at the program will instantly be aware of that. Our gym is phenomenal. The working environment over there is phenomenal. Our compensation package is extraordinary, so I think that this is just a great chance for a coach to come in here and have one of the best jobs in America.

The Press: (inaudible)

Turner: I tell you what, I was ready to re-sign up yesterday after we met with Jim and Donna. The Chancellor is passionate about everything we do at Vanderbilt, but he's particularly passionate about things that are excellent, and our women's basketball program is excellent.

The Press: How would you fans out there who are looking at this as a crisis in confidence -- they would say that we had one of the top coaches in the country and we couldn't keep him?

Turner: I don't know what they're worried about because the commitment that's here is so blatantly obvious that you would have to be living in a different country or in a cave not to know that Vanderbilt is committed, and we will have exceptional leadership.

The Press: Do you think that the Vandy has the financial/institutional support to offer a package that's competitive with other top coaches?

Turner: I think we have the resources to offer whatever we like.

The Press: Will these resources be mobilized if they're needed?

Turner: We'll hire the best person we can possibly hire, and I don't the issue of what it takes to hire that person is a question.

The Press: You don't think that's an issue?

Turner: Not at all.

The Press: Going back to what you said earlier, you don't see that as the issue in Foster's decision?

Turner: No, no. We asked him. We said, "Jim, is there something we can do to make you feel better about being here?" and he said, "There's absolutely nothing. Nothing to do with money. It has nothing to do with anybody around here. It has nothing to do with Vanderbilt. This is Jim Foster."

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