Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State women’s basketball search in quiet phase until March

Wichita State athletic director Darron Boatright, left, listens to interim coach Linda Hargrove during her introductory news conference Jan. 23.
Wichita State athletic director Darron Boatright, left, listens to interim coach Linda Hargrove during her introductory news conference Jan. 23. The Wichita Eagle

Wichita State athletic director Darron Boatright’s ideal women’s basketball coach might combine the acumen of Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma with the charisma and character of your favorite motivational speaker and a religious leader.

“If we can find that mix, we’ll be happy,” he said.

Even UConn might find that description imposing. Most schools will settle for a more realistic goal and Boatright is confident the job will attract strong candidates.

That search is proceeding informally. Boatright largely gets names through third parties — most coaches don’t want to make an official move during the season — while he and interim coach Linda Hargrove research candidates. WSU’s job opened in late January when the school and coach Jody Adams-Birch agreed to part ways after a player transfer led to a review of the program.

Adams-Birch led the Shockers to three consecutive Missouri Valley Conference titles and NCAA Tournaments. Those are standards Boatright wants to maintain. He said feedback from people in the sport indicate that WSU’s salaries, facilities and aspects such as charter flights are viewed as excellent for an MVC school.

“It’s a popular position; we’ve figured that out,” he said. “People are pleasantly surprised by (the budget) and all those things make our job much more popular and more marketable.”

▪  Boatright said he would consider coaches with NCAA Division II or junior-college experience. A job posting on the university website specifies NCAA Division I experience, wording Boatright said he considered an industry standard.

“I’m not eliminating anybody that I’m researching,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want someone who’s up to the challenge of running and operating our women’s basketball program. I don’t care what their experience is.”

▪  The search won’t pick up until seasons begin to conclude in March.

“I want to be sensitive to their season,” he said. “Our candidates have a job to perform. I don’t ever want to distract from that.”

▪  Softball coach Kristi Bredbenner is the department’s lone permanent female head coach. That roster isn’t going to define the search for Boatright.

“I haven’t been told that I have to hire a female, but I do want to hire the best candidate,” he said. “If that happens to be a female, that’s all the better.”

▪  Adams-Birch made around $260,000 annually in her eighth season at WSU and after leading the program to unprecedented success. While the next coach’s salary will depend on experience, Boatright is not viewing this as an opportunity to dramatically lower salary.

“We have a very well-funded women’s basketball program,” Boatright said. “We are going into this process with the expectation of continuing to compete at a high level.”

Duncan, Webster remembered – Two Shocker Sports Hall of Fame members recently died.

Tennis player Mervyn Webster, a charter inductee in 1979, is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference’s All-Centennial team. He won three No. 1 singles and two at No. 1 doubles from 1968-72 and played in three NCAA Tournaments.

Webster, 67, died on Feb. 10 in Dallas. He spent much of his adult life coaching tennis in Wichita, including with the Wichita Advantage pro team. Webster coached Lori McNeil, who defeated defending champion Steffi Graf in 1994 on her way to the Wimbledon semifinals. He is a member of the USTA Missouri Valley Hall of Fame.

Former football player Lynn Duncan, 68, died on Feb. 14 in Oklahoma City.

Duncan earned All-MVC and third-team Associated Press All-America honors as a defensive tackle in 1969. He was named team MVP in 1967, 1968 and 1969. WSU inducted him into its hall of fame in 2014.

Former WSU assistant Bill Parcells recruited Duncan from Marshall High in Oklahoma City.

He recorded 20 tackles in a 1969 game against Arkansas.

“I don’t believe we have met a finer player at his position this year,” Arkansas coach Frank Broyles said after the game. “Sometimes a linebacker will be all over the field, but never one from Duncan’s position.”

Big tickets at Wilkins — Wichita State opens its home softball schedule against defending NCAA champion Oklahoma at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Wilkins Stadium.

The fourth-ranked Sooners defeated WSU last season in an NCAA regional on their way to the title. WSU’s next home game is March 16 against No. 7 LSU.

Around 400 tickets remain for both games. A 2015 visit by the Sooners resulted in the 1,000-seat stadium’s first sellout. Last season’s top crowd was 584 against Oklahoma State.

Worth noting — Horsholm 79ers center Asbjorn Midtgaard, who signed with WSU’s basketball team in November, scored 15 points in both of his two games last week, making 11 of 16 shots. For the season, he averages 8.9 points (shooting 55.3 percent) and 6.9 rebounds. … WSU’s Haru Inoue defeated Texas’ Christian Sigsgaard 6-2, 7-5 on Friday in Austin. Sigsgaard is ranked No. 11 nationally.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop