"This team has been an example of what hard work and perseverance represent," said Nikki Caldwell in a release announcing her departure from UCLA. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
David Hooper of SBN's Rocky Top Talk and I have gone back and forth jokingly about Nikki Caldwell's coaching future for about half of this season.
Hooper, of course, has been wishing for her to return to her alma mater to succeed Pat Summitt whenever she chooses to move on while I simply wanted the Pac-10 to hold on to one of its bright spots on the national landscape.
So with today's announcement that Caldwell is leaving UCLA for LSU, neither of us gets what we might have hoped for.
"We are extremely sad to see Nikki Caldwell depart UCLA," said UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero in a UCLA athletics release. "After giving Nikki her first opportunity to be a head coach, we have all worked together to build the women's basketball program into one of the best in the West, increasing attendance and donation levels.
"I met with Nikki earlier this week and made her what we felt was a very attractive multi-year offer to keep her in Westwood. It was our hope that Nikki would want to continue building what she has started at UCLA and we did all we could to make that desire a reality.
"We certainly wish Nikki all the best in the future. We will begin a national search for the coach that will continue to build our program immediately," Guerrero said.
Perhaps most important for Bruins fans to know is that UCLA did in fact make the effort to keep Caldwell as rumors swirled about her looking elsewhere.
"UCLA is a special place in so many ways. I will forever be indebted for the opportunities that UCLA has afforded me," said Caldwell in a release. "Dan Guerrero is one of the elite athletic directors and it has been a privilege and an honor to work with this administration. They did all they could to keep me at UCLA and I appreciate those efforts."
Of course, Caldwell's hiring at LSU has implications for other programs as well.
Just earlier this week, Caldwell was said to have interviewed at the University of Virginia, where she served as an assistant for three seasons (2000-2002) under recently retired Debbie Ryan. While in Charlottesville, Caldwell was responsible for recruiting, scouting, film exchange, player development, camps and monitoring academic progress of student-athletes.
So with Dawn Staley having already turned down Virginia and Caldwell accepting the LSU job that leaves them still searching for a replacement, with Georgetown's Terri Williams-Flournoy and Temple's Tonya Cardoza as candidates, as relayed previously on SBN's Streaking the Lawn.
However, one might also wonder if this puts the University of Washington in a tough spot in their pursuit of people like Sue Semrau of Florida State - Semrau reportedly interviewed for the LSU job and although she's from the Seattle area, she also graduated from UC San Diego and received a Master's from USC. If she's actively looking at jobs and Washington is indeed on her list, it's hard to imagine the new UCLA opening not being as enticing if not more. And really, that goes for anyone who saw the opportunity to compete in the Pac-10 as part of the appeal of the UW job.
One of UW's prime targets, Gonzaga Bulldogs coach Kelly Graves, declined overtures to move cross-state to Seattle, according to Seattle Times reporter Jayda Evans and signed a 10-year contract extension with Gonzaga on Friday.
Obviously, there are plenty of names floating around and there's going to be some shuffling even among tournament-caliber programs, but it will be interesting to see how UW emerges from this given what might be seen as increasing competition.