Coaching changes at Georgia coming fast for Josh Brooks. Could more be on the horizon?
Josh Brooks just wrapped up one basketball coaching search. Now another is underway.
Joni Taylor’s jump from Georgia to Texas A&M announced Wednesday morning opens up the most prominent coaching position at a women’s program at the school.
After seven seasons, Taylor is gone to College Station in a surprising move.
More:Who will be the next head coach of the Georgia Lady Bulldogs? Here are names to know
The women’s basketball opening is the latest in a quick changing head coach roster at Georgia where five head coaching positions have turned over since Brooks was promoted to athletic director.
With Greg McGarity close to retiring as AD and navigating the pandemic a focus, there were no head coaching changes from March 2018 when Mark Fox was fired after nine seasons atop the men's basketball until national championship winning track and field coach Petros Kyprianou and Georgia decided to parted ways.
That was announced in June of 2021, the same month when softball coach Lu Harrris-Champer retired after a trip to the Women's College World Series.
That was five months after Brooks was promoted to AD. Now 14 and a half months since Brooks stepped into that chair, one-third of Georgia’s head coaches are no longer in their jobs.
Tom Crean was fired as men’s basketball coach March 10 after four seasons. Brooks dismissed soccer coach Billy Lesesne after seven seasons of never making the NCAA tournament.
Kyprianou let his contract run out when he didn’t get major facility upgrades.
Brooks went to Southern Cal to hire new coaches for track and field in Caryl Smith-Gilbert and soccer in Keidane McAlpine. Both won national titles at USC.
He promoted softball assistant Tony Baldwin, whose first Georgia team is 26-4 and ranked No. 17 nationally.
While other SEC schools went the mid-major route for men's basketball hires with Missouri landing Cleveland State’s Dennis Gates and LSU tapping Murray State’s Matt McMahon, Georgia first grabbed Florida’s Mike White. He took the Gators to four NCAA tournament trips but was feeling some heat from the fan base. Florida turned to San Franciso’s Todd Golden.
Now Brooks and senior deputy athletic director Darrice Griffin will be looking to hire a new women’s basketball coach with Sweet 16 games ahead this weekend and the Final Four in Minneapolis April 1-3.
“A national search for our next head coach is already underway,” Brooks said in a statement. “As we have said in the past, we are committed to competing for championships and postseason success in each of our 21 sports. I am confident we will find the best person to help us achieve that mission and build on the great tradition of Georgia Lady Bulldog basketball.”
Taylor, 43, was a popular coach succeeding the legendary Andy Landers. She went 140-75 overall, was the 2021 SEC coach of the year, but her teams never advanced past the second round of the NCAA tournament.
She had received a contract extension and raise a year ago and recruiting was going well with an incoming class ranked No. 7 by ESPN, but top players Jenna Stati and Que Morrison were exiting.
Taylor is replacing Gary Blair who made $1.25 million annually. That’s $400,000 more than what Taylor was being paid.
So, why did Taylor leave Georgia?
One reason may be found in the words she offered about Texas A&M’s athletic director Ross Bjork and deputy athletic director Kristen Brown who worked at the Big Ten, Big East and AAC.
“I have always been struck by Ross' enthusiasm for furthering women's athletics,” she said. “He has shown that he wants to be a change agent for our game. As I have gotten the chance to know him and Kristen over this process, I have become so excited for the vision that they have for the athletics department and women's basketball. There are a lot of great coaches in this business, for them to target me and say that I am the one they want to be the leader of this great program is incredibly humbling."
More head coaching changes could be on the horizon at Georgia.
Many coaches are on the back end of their careers even if they show no signs of slowing down. That includes national championship winning coaches in swimming’s Jack Bauerle (43 seasons), men’s tennis' Manuel Diaz (34 seasons), women’s tennis' Jeff Wallace (37 seasons) and men’s golf's Chris Haack (26 seasons).
Many will watch which direction Georgia goes with its gymnastics program, a 10-time national champion under Suzanne Youclan. The Gym Dogs finished last in the SEC tournament under fifth-year coach Courtney Kupets Carter, an accomplished former Bulldog gymnast.
Georgia, which is unseeded heading to the Auburn NCAA regional, has the nation’s No. 5 recruiting class in 2022, according to collegegymnews.com.
One thing is certain. While Kirby Smart will be back on the sidelines next fall after taking Georgia to its first football national title in 41 years, there will be not one but two new head coaches on the bench for the Bulldogs basketball teams next season.