On Saturday, after 18 seasons serving as the head coach of the women’s basketball team, Deb Patterson was relieved of her duties at the helm of the Wildcats. This decision, made public on Sunday, came shortly after the team’s 87-84 overtime loss to Kansas in the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championships in Oklahoma City.
In her 18-year stint, Patterson became the longest tenured women’s basketball coach in Wildcat history. With 350 career wins as the coach, Patterson became the winningest coach in Wildcat history in just her 10th season with the Wildcats, back in 2006-07. She led the Wildcats to nine 20-win seasons and Big 12 championships in 2003-04 and 2007-08.
Under the guidance of Patterson, the Wildcats received nine NCAA tournament berths, five more than they had before she took the reigns. To add to that, Patterson took her team to four WNIT tournaments, including a win in 2006. Under Patterson, the Wildcats only missed postseason play four times.
The three-time Naismith National Coach of the Year finalist and two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year made players successful in her offensive scheme. Patterson had success in molding former Wildcats Nicole Ohlde and Kendra Wecker into first team All-Americans. She also helped four other players become All-American honorable mentions. This is the aspect of Patterson’s legacy: molding and helping players succeed on and off of the court, which will be the biggest thing the program will miss.
This decision by athletic director John Currie, who was named the 2013 Bobby Dodd Athletic Director of the Year, might go down as the biggest mistake of his four years at K-State.
According to Currie, the decision to fire Patterson was spurred by the Wildcats’ performance over the past season. Their 11-19 record was the worst performance of Patterson’s coaching career.
“(The athletic department) did two different contracts for Coach Patterson since I have been here and I always thought that we would be doing another at some point,” Currie said at the press conference on Sunday. “I did not think that we would be in this position but as the year unfolded and I looked at where we have been over the last five years, I did not feel right about the trajectory. I felt like it was time.”
The problem with Currie’s argument is that the Wildcats were clearly in a rebuilding year after losing star guard Brittany Chambers to graduation and only returning three seniors, two of which had very limited playing experience because of injuries and transfers.
Patterson and her staff made a decision to invest in the long-term success of the team this season by signing freshman guards Leticia Romero and Kindred Wesemann before the season, something that propelled the Wildcats to success this season. Patterson also fixed the size issues they faced last season by bringing in freshmen forwards Breanna Lewis, Jessica Sheble and Erica Young, who all stand over 6 feet tall.
The program itself would have improved without a coaching change because of the experience that the young team gained throughout the season. The Wildcats would have improved just because of Patterson’s investment in youth last summer.
Currie’s rash decision might have just ruined the momentum that the Wildcats had built this season, and definitely put a rift into the recruiting power that the Wildcats had with Patterson at the helm.
Even worse, Currie has risked alienating the current Wildcat players who came to trust and admire their former coach, which is a risk any time a coaching change happens. Trust is an important feature in any team dynamic, and it is something that will come into play next season with the new coach.
In his announcement, Currie hinted towards the new facilities and winning past as decision factors for the move. While the Wildcats might be one of the 15 winningest programs in the country, they don’t have the recruiting power of programs like Tennessee or Connecticut. Also, while the basketball training facility is a jewel for the program, it pales in comparison to having a coach with the national recognition of Patterson to help bring in talented players.
Only time will tell how this move effects the Wildcats’ program. But, if the program doesn’t make leaps and bounds within the next few seasons, Currie will know that the wrong decision was made.
The views expressed in this column are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Collegian.
Emilio Rivera is a freshman in journalism and mass communications. Please send all comments to [email protected]