Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hello, and now goodbye, to VCU's Stollings

Marlene, we hardly knew ye.

Marlene Stollings will be introduced as head women's basketball coach at the University of Minnesota this afternoon at a press conference. Seems like yesterday that we were writing the same sentence about Stollings taking over at VCU. Indeed, that was June 5, 2012, when Stollings joined the Rams, leaving Winthrop after one season.

We can't argue with her credentials as Stollings turned around a Winthrop team and most recently, VCU, which finished 11-19 her first season and 22-10 this year. VCU ended its season with a loss to Princeton in the WNIT. Given her surge of young talent, we were expecting a bigger and better Rams team next year. If that happens, Stollings will not be leading the way.

Of course, Stollings is free to work where she wants, and no doubt, the Big 10 is more attractive than the Atlantic 10. But seven freshmen and four sophomores were on her roster this season. We're guessing most of them came there to play for Stollings, embracing her uptempo style coined "Fury."
Now with her office furniture hardly having the chance to gather dust, Stollings is gone to the tune of a six-year contract and far harsher winters than she endured in Richmond.

Yet her kids remain, perhaps. We don't know if any will transfer, but if they do, they will be required to sit out a year due to NCAA eligibility rules. And that's our real problem with this situation.

Like it or not, the rules of corporate America are to look out for No. 1. Employers aren't sentimental these days; employees and yes, that means coaches, put their own needs first. Nobody says it, but it's truth. That can mean job hopping, or three jobs in four years as is the case with Stollings.

While that's the way it is, it's not the way it always was. That's among the reasons Old Dominion was so fortunate to have Wendy Larry and Virginia to have Debbie Ryan. These were women not looking to climb the corporate ladder. They were invested in their institutions; these were their schools.

We feel for the Rams or any student-athlete left behind in a coaching transition. When kids are recruited, they are brought into the fold and told they are part of a family. The rhetoric sounds nice, but truth be told, sports is business not family. And the real travesty is when Coach leaves for a better job, the kids have to pick up the pieces, whether that means playing for a coach who didn't recruit them, sitting the bench for the rest of their time or leaving for another program and missing out on a year of ball.

More so, VCU wasn't built yet. The Rams were a good work in progress, but they hadn't been built yet. Isn't there something to be said for staying somewhere and building a program before you move on?

We bid Stollings adieu and honestly wish her well. But admittedly, what happened here leaves us cold.


  1. I'm glad you referenced Wendy Larry. She is a perfect reason why everyone is now looking out for themselves. All those years she gave to ODU and a new AD come along and removes her. That's what loyalty gets you now a days. Sorry to say it but its a two way street and many coaches get blind sided on the whim of an AD, School President boosters and alumni.# schools in 4 years is a bit much, but the days of 10,15, 20 years at one place are long gone.

  2. Fair point, but while the coach and the administrators are looking out for themselves, what about the players? The ex-VCU coach brought in nine new players last year - who signed on to play in this system for this coach - and I suspect they were pretty much blindsided by the news. I suppose they can transfer, but the rules for player movement are a heck of a lot more restrictive than the ones for coaches, administators or even schools from conference to conference. That's why I cringe whenever the adults in this "business" say something like, "It's all about the student-athletes." Give me a break.