Following the announcement that Chris Gobrecht, former Yale women’s basketball head coach, had accepted a head coaching position at Air Force, administrators in Yale’s athletic department have already begun their search for Gobrecht’s replacement — and they have plans to finish the search quickly.
Yale is still finalizing the members of the head coach search committee, according to Senior Associate Athletics Director Barbara Chesler, who will be chairing the committee. But one of the committee’s goals is to bring in candidates by May 7, so that current players on the team can offer feedback for the committee’s decision before they leave campus for the summer, she said.
Though that goal gives the department just 16 more days to finalize its list of candidates, Chesler said she is not worried about the timing of the search, and that the period with no head coach will not significantly impact the team’s off-season operations.
“[May 7] is our goal, but we’ll have to see how it goes,” Chesler said. “We might make it, we might not. We’re going to have to see how big the candidate pool is, who we think we want to bring in.”
The committee will seek candidates by soliciting recommendations, accepting applications and “asking people in the basketball world,” Chesler said, so that its applicant pool as wide as possible. She added that in her experience searching for coaches, Yale has hired coaches who had previously been thinking of switching jobs and those who had not considered a new position until the Yale role opened up.
Yale guard Nyasha Sarju ’16 said the athletic department has asked for as much input from the team as possible, and that the players made a list of qualities that they would like to see in a new coach.
Chesler said she was not authorized to speak about the future of current assistant coaches Stacy McIntyre, Clare Fitzpatrick and Brandon Gade. Sarju said none of them have decided whether or not to accept Gobrecht’s offer to bring them along to Air Force, while Chesler declined to comment on whether or not they would be considered in the head coaching search.
“It is difficult for [the assistants] because they have no guarantee of getting hired by the incoming head coach,” Sarju said. “Coach [Gobrecht] has asked them to go with her, but I know it is definitely not an easy decision for them to make.”
Yale’s most recent head coach hiring was men’s soccer head coach Kylie Stannard, who was named the new leader of the program on Dec. 29, 2014, four months after former coach Brian Tompkins announced that he would step down following the end of the 2014 season.
The women’s basketball search, which will likely be completed in significantly less time, poses an additional challenge because of the surprise departure, Chesler said. She added, however, that it is “never too late” to conduct a search, and that the beginning of the off-season is not an unusual time to make changes in the program.
Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said he does not view the search as a time constraint because recruiting has already finished for the class of 2019, and evaluations of potential athletes in the next high school class will not occur until later in the summer.
“I think we’re going to be just fine, and I’m not troubled by the timing of it,” Beckett said. “If that were the issue, there would be other considerations that we would be looking at.”
Though Beckett and Chesler did not specify any candidates currently being considered, both did emphasize that compatibility with the Ivy League as a factor that the committee will consider. Because of the academic requirements for athletes in the Ancient Eight, a coaching position in the conference can feel different from one elsewhere in Division I.
The importance of fit may be one reason that eight of the 11 head coaches hired since 2009 were coaches at another Ivy school before their new position. Stannard, however, coming from Michigan State, had no obvious ties to the Ivy League before coming to Yale this year.
“If [candidates] have been involved in the Ivy League in some capacity, that’s always an added bonus,” Beckett said. “It’s not a requirement, but we need to have someone who understands the academic rigor of Yale, and the understanding that the students who come here to participate in sport are very, very passionate about [the academic] part of their life, and they’re very passionate about the athletic portion of their lives.”
“I think [experience in the Ivy League is] beneficial, but it’s not something that couldn’t be overcome by somebody who hasn’t been in the Ivy League,” Chesler said. “There are a lot of fine, fine academic schools out there. I don’t think you’re looking for a person with any one criteria.”
If fit does prove to be vital for the committee, there are several former Yale assistant coaches who currently hold positions across the nation. Allison Guth, who recently completed her third season as an assistant for Northwestern, spent two seasons at Yale from 2010 to 2012 as the recruiting coordinator. One of Guth’s predecessors, Kerry Jenkins, spent four years from 2001–05 as the Yale recruiting coordinator, and he has head coaching experience to boot, having spent the past seven seasons as the head coach at Division III Oberlin College.
But a candidate with even more Ivy experience and with Yale ties is current Princeton assistant coach Milena Flores, a two-time first team All-Pac-10 selection at Stanford — and a former WNBA player — who coached in New Haven from 2005–07. The Tigers are coming off a perfect 30–0 regular season which culminated in a postseason loss to No. 1 seed Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
While the search proceeds, offseason training has been operating as normal under the team’s assistants, Chesler said. She added that the team has not missed a workout, and that the limited time before the end of the school year means that even if the new hire occurs in the summer, the team will only have missed two weeks of training under its head coach.
Judith Krauss, master of Silliman College and faculty advisor of the Yale women’s basketball team, is also on the search committee, according to Chesler.