The past seven days have been something of an emotional wringer for Amy Beggin.
Within hours of learning that the University of New Mexico was parting ways with women’s basketball coach Yvonne Sanchez last Friday, Beggin was asked to take over as interim coach. An assistant coach and former standout player for the Lobos, Beggin agreed to steady the program while administrators search for Sanchez’s replacement.
From a basketball perspective it’s been relatively easy. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from on-court instruction until after the Final Four concludes. Beggin said the normal postseason “exit” meetings with individual players have been put on hold.
But from a personal perspective, stepping into the head coaches’ shoes – albeit temporarily – has been rough.
“It’s a difficult situation because coach Sanchez was not only my boss,” Beggin said, “she recruited me here, hired me and promoted me. She’s done so much for me over the years.”
There are no guarantees Beggin will be retained when a new coach is hired, nor is she in the running for UNM’s head job. But Beggin unquestionably wants to stay and is doing her best to keep things running smoothly while the search continues.
Job one for Beggin is making sure UNM’s new coaching staff has a full roster with which to start. She is keeping in contact with and trying to reassure the Lobos’ returning and incoming players.
So far, so good. Athletic director Paul Krebs said Thursday no returning or incoming players have requested scholarship releases.
“With the returning players and commits we have, we won’t need a rebuilding year,” Beggin said. “The kids who are coming in are really good players and great people. Whoever takes the job should be thrilled to coach them.”
During last Friday’s news conference, Krebs said he was “thankful Amy is willing to lead the program at this emotional time. I hope our new coach will take a hard look at retaining her.”
Beggin, who was a fan favorite during her playing career (2006-10) and ranks sixth on the program’s career scoring list, said she has received numerous calls and texts of support since last week’s announcement.
“It’s really hard seeing coach Sanchez and (assistants Anthony Turner and Joseph Anders) go because they mean a lot to me,” Beggin said. “But so many people have reached out to me in the past few days, wishing me well and offering to help. That’s what makes UNM and Albuquerque so special. That’s why I want to stay here.”
POPULAR POSTING: Deputy athletic director Janice Ruggiero said UNM’s coaching job has drawn plenty of interest from coaches and agents representing coaches.
“We’ve got way more names than we want,” Ruggiero said, “but that’s better than not having enough. There are a lot of good candidates, and we’re in the process of narrowing them down.”
Ruggiero, who serves on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Oversight Committee, said she hopes to bring two to four candidates to Albuquerque for on-campus interviews. She and Krebs would “ideally” like to hire a coach prior to the Women’s Final Four (April 3-5) but there is no deadline.
NAME GAME: The rumor mill has churned out plenty of possible candidates for UNM’s coaching job – some more reasonable than others.
Two for the “Extremely Unlikely” list are Beth Burns and Vic Schaefer.
Burns, a successful head coach at San Diego State, is now a happily employed assistant at USC. Contacted Thursday, she had plenty of glowing things to say about the Pit, UNM and its fan base, but said the school’s coaching job “is not something I see myself pursuing at this time.”
Schaefer was a candidate for UNM’s head job five years ago when he was an assistant at Texas A&M. Now he’s a fourth-year head coach at Mississippi State with a 28-7 team set to face UConn in the NCAA’s Sweet 16 on Saturday. His salary averages $662,500 per year – nearly $400,000 more than Sanchez received.
The “Somewhat More Likely” list includes Curt Miller and Jennifer Azzi.
Miller, also a UNM candidate five years ago, posted a 285-92 record in 11 seasons at Bowling Green, where he worked with Krebs. Miller has since spent two seasons at Indiana and in December was hired as head coach of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun.
Azzi, a standout player at Stanford and in the WNBA, has a 73-113 coaching record in five seasons at San Francisco. She led the Dons to a 21-11 record and an NCAA berth in 2015-16 and is rumored to be a candidate for Arizona’s open coaching job.
Numerous other names have surfaced, brought up by coaches, fans and, yes, journalists. In no particular order, here are three names for the “Who Knows How Likely?” list.
• Elena Lovato: An Albuquerque native and Rio Grande alum, Lovato is a second-year assistant on Shaefer’s Mississippi State staff. She posted a ridiculous 113-8 record as a junior college head coach, who led Trinity Valley Community College to two national titles.
• Katie Abrahamson-Henderson: The sixth-year head coach at Albany has a 146-47 record, including five straight NCAA appearances. Her Great Danes went 28-5 and upset Florida in Round 1 of the NCAAs this season.
• Brian Ostermann: An associate head coach at Kansas State and previously at TCU under Jeff Mittie, Ostermann knows the Mountain West and UNM’s recruiting bases. He spent nine seasons as a successful junior college men’s head coach.