Replacing a legend isn't easy, but it's Bonnie Henrickson's newest task.
Henrickson, officially introduced as Kansas University's new women's basketball coach Monday, will replace Marian Washington, who retired Feb. 27 because of undisclosed health reasons after 31 years leading the Jayhawks.
"She's a pioneer, she's a leader," KU athletic director Lew Perkins said of Washington, "and I think Bonnie - and any coach in the country - would tell you if it wasn't for the ground Marian broke she wouldn't have a chance to coach in this country."
"My staff and I accept this position with tremendous respect for coach Washington and her career at Kansas," Henrickson said. "We have great respect for the coaches in the Big 12. I'm very realistic about the growth needed to compete in that conference."
Perkins said he talked to numerous people involved in women's basketball while looking for Washington's successor, noting "there wasn't one person who didn't have Bonnie one or two on their list."
Henrickson, 40, coached Virginia Tech for the past seven years, winning 158 games and making five trips to the NCAA Tournament. Virginia Tech never won fewer than 20 games under Henrickson or missed the postseason, making the Women's National Invitational Tournament in the two seasons it missed the NCAA Tournament.
Henrickson agreed to a five-year contract with a base salary of $130,000 a year, with income from media and apparel contracts and an annuity raising her compensation to $530,000.
"I wasn't looking to make a move ... but it felt right," said Henrickson, who brought her coaching staff - assistant coaches Karen Lange, Katie O'Connor and Kelly Kramer, and director of basketball operations Trena Anderson - from Virginia Tech.
"I can't tell you how excited and realistic we are about how this group will work tirelessly to bring this program back to national prominence."
|THE BONNIE HENRICKSON FILEAge: 40.Hometown: Willmar, Minn.Alma mater: St. Cloud (Minn.) State, 1986.Career record: 158-62 at Virginia Tech and overall in seven years.Best finish: NCAA Sweet 16, 1999.Honor: Atlantic 10 coach of the year, 1999.Coaching experience1985-86 -- St. Cloud State, student assistant1986-88 -- Western Illinois, graduate assistant1988-93 -- Virginia Tech, assistant coach1993-95 -- Virginia Tech, associate head coach1995-97 -- Iowa, assistant coach1998-2004 -- Virginia Tech, head coach Hear Bonnie: Henrickson's news conference New coach makes lasting impressions Bonnie Henrickson bio|
Henrickson said she was still making decisions about whether to keep any members of Washington's coaching staff. Perkins mentioned that Washington still would be a part of the women's basketball program, but he said the decision of how much she would be involved would be up to her.
Known for her recruiting prowess, Henrickson said that recruiting was her top priority and that she wanted to recruit players from Kansas, but would look regionally and nationally if needed. She added that she wanted players who would excel on the classroom and on the court.
Along with improved players, the Jayhawks need improved attendance. KU has played in front of sparse home crowds the past few years, which Henrickson said she hoped to change by playing a fan-friendly style of basketball and reaching out to the community.
"We are in the entertainment business and we recognize that," Henrickson said. "We're also in the relationship business."
Henrickson said she wasn't worried about being compared to the success of KU's men's basketball team.
"I'm all for everyone in the athletic department being successful," she said. "I think what coach Self has done ... along with the other growth in the athletic department should be what we want."
Perkins said KU assistant coach Lynette Woodard, who coached KU to a 1-9 record over its final 10 regular season games after Washington stepped down, was a candidate for the job, but he ultimately decided to go outside of KU for the hire.
"Obviously, she has a love of this university that probably goes beyond everyone else," Perkins said of Woodard. "She and I had some meetings and I think at the end we both it agreed it was important for us to go out and hire another coach. Lynette will always be a part of this family. She and Marian will always be a part of women's basketball at the University of Kansas."
In Henrickson's first season with the Hokies, Virginia Tech won its first Atlantic 10 Conference championship in the 1997-98 season. The Hokies won a school-record 28 games and reached the Sweet 16 the next season.
Henrickson was named A-10 coach of the year after the Hokies went 15-1 in conference play and also was named an assistant coach for Team USA. She was named head coach of the women's USA Basketball R. William Jones Cup team two seasons later.
Before becoming the head coach at Virginia Tech, Henrickson was an assistant coach at Iowa from 1995-97, an associate head coach at Virginia Tech from 1993-95 and an assistant coach there from 1988-93. She led the Hawkeyes to a Sweet 16 appearance and two Big 10 Conference titles.
A native of Willmar, Minn., Henrickson also had spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at Western Illinois and one year as a student assistant at St. Cloud State, her alma mater. As a player, she helped SCSU go 97-25 during her four years, win three Northern Sun Conference titles and advance to three Division Two quarterfinals. She also was a three-time member of the all-conference team and was a team captain as a junior and senior.
KU was 9-19 overall and 2-14 in the Big 12 Conference last season, its fourth straight losing campaign.