News With Commentary by TSL Staff

Wednesday, April 17, 2002
by Will Stewart,

Henrickson Interviews With Vanderbilt

Virginia Tech women's basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson has once again surfaced as a candidate for an open head coaching job, but this time, it's more serious. The Nashville Tennessean reported that Henrickson interviewed for the vacant Vanderbilt head coaching job on Monday.

The Vanderbilt job is open because former Vandy coach Jim Foster, who had been at the school for 11 years, left to take the Ohio State job. Foster had fashioned a winner at Vanderbilt, taking them to 10 NCAA tournaments in his 11 years, including two straight Elite 8 appearances the last two years. Vanderbilt is returning a very strong nucleus of players from last year's SEC Tournament championship team, and they are projected as a Top 5 team next year.

Ironically, Virginia Tech Director of Athletics Jim Weaver had given Ohio State permission to speak to Henrickson, but she never interviewed for the job, primarily because OSU found Foster, and Henrickson was spending time in Charlottesville with Tech player Rayna DuBose, who had fallen very ill.

Now that Foster has taken the OSU job, the Vanderbilt job is open, and Henrickson is a candidate there. Other names that have been floated for the job are Muffett McGraw, who led Notre Dame to the 2001 national championship and served under Foster at St. Joseph's; Deb Patterson, who led Kansas State to the recent NCAA Sweet 16 and was a Foster assistant at Vanderbilt; and former Vanderbilt assistant Julie Plank, currently an assistant with the WNBA's Indiana Fever.

The immediate question is what Vanderbilt is willing to pay Henrickson, if they offer her the job, and what Tech will be up against. Vanderbilt is a private university, meaning that salary figures are not readily available to the public, but Foster's Vandy compensation package was believed to be in the $300,000 range.

One source told TSL that Vandy is offering twice Henrickson's salary. She currently makes about $130,000 a year in salary at Tech, and her total compensation is about $200,000 per year. It's not known if Vanderbilt is offering twice the $130k figure or twice the $200k figure -- our source was not clear on that point. But it's not unreasonable to expect that Vanderbilt is offering at least $300,000 total compensation, and maybe as high as $400,000.

Sources also tell us that Henrickson was scheduled to meet with Weaver this afternoon to discuss her status. It's not clear if VT would be willing or able to produce a significant salary increase for Henrickson, who has two years left on her current five-year deal.

It's unknown if Henrickson is seeking more money for herself or her assistants, Frank Beamer-style, as one source told us. Or perhaps Henrickson is simply interested in a higher-profile job, which Vanderbilt is, in a better conference, which the SEC is.

Vanderbilt averaged 4,779 fans last season, while the Hokies averaged just 2,577 fans per game. So aside from the salary increase, Vandy can offer better fan support, which is critical to landing top recruits.

Tech's current attendance figures are a significant increase from the pre-Henrickson days, when the Hokies averaged fewer than 1,000 fans per game, but despite that increase in the core fan following, Tech still ranks approximately 30th in attendance among the teams in the six "BCS" conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, SEC, Pac 10).

Tech's stature in women's basketball appears destined to continue to increase, as the Hokies prepare to bring in their most highly-ranked class of recruits ever, a four-player group that includes McDonald's All-American Dawn Chriss and the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year in Kerri Gardin.

Through this process, Henrickson has not been available for public comment. Hokie women's basketball fans, who support Henrickson whole-heartedly, can only sit and wait.


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