UTC vice chancellor and athletic director David Blackburn wowed the Chattanooga faithful on Thursday afternoon when he announced the Lady Mocs’ next head coach.
When a school like Chattanooga loses a coach like Wes Moore, there’s nowhere to go but down, right?
At the very least, Blackburn’s hiring of Jim Foster, a 2013 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, made clear that the UTC women’s basketball program’s expectations are still right where Moore left them.
In reality, though, they might have been raised.
“We felt it was important to hire someone that can maintain where our program is at, but we felt it even more important to hire someone that could come in and move the program forward,” Blackburn said. “We were able to do what we did with this hire because of all those supporters; all those student-athletes that have made this program so special.”
Foster has compiled 783 wins and boasts a .718 winning percentage in 35 years as a collegiate head coach at St. Joseph’s (Pa.), Vanderbilt, and most recently, Ohio State. That includes a 1993 trip to the Final Four, four Elite Eight appearances and six Sweet 16 finishes.
On Friday afternoon, when Foster was formally introduced as the fifth women’s basketball head coach in school history, Thursday’s buzz was still very much alive.
“I’d be a fool if I didn’t have a positive impression of a 29-4 team,” Foster told the crowd assembled inside the University Center’s Chattanooga room. “You get a little nervous when your new boss is talking about doing better than that.
“Chattanooga has always been a place that we’ve been very fond of. When this opportunity presented itself, I more than wanted to jump at it … It was sort of a match.”
Foster isn’t the only one that feels it’s a good fit, though. So does his predecessor, Moore, who Foster spoke with on the phone for about 30 minutes on Thursday.
“[Moore] had a comfort zone with me being here, and I have a comfort zone with replacing him,” Foster said. “I think, in a lot of respects, we’re somewhat the same. We love to coach, we love to be in the gym and we love our players.”
Lady Mocs assistant Katie Burrows felt pretty good about the hire, too.
“When [Blackburn] told me, I said ‘you’ve got to be kidding me,” said Burrows. “He asked if I knew him and I said ‘have I been living under a rock?’ “
Burrows, who also played at UTC, feels even better knowing she’ll be staying on as an assistant, which Foster explained was his “first executive order” as head coach.
“Katie is staying,” he said. “So you know I’m not dumb.”
Michael Murphy covers UTC athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelNooga.