Foster seeks coaching spot after Ohio State firing

For the first time in years, Jim Foster had to update his

resume.

When he looked it over after being fired for the first time in

his life, he didn’t feel as if it came out too badly.

”As I looked at it, there was nothing that made me cringe,” he

said.

It’s quite a document. It includes 783 victories, a .718 winning

percentage, a spotless reputation and his induction this June into

the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

He was jettisoned at Ohio State – the university said it was a

mutual decision – last month despite a 279-82 record in his 11

seasons, 10 trips to the NCAA tournament, four Big Ten coach of the

year awards and a record six consecutive conference titles

(2005-2010).

Foster did not feel sorry for himself after the abrupt firing.

Instead, he joked about the nice things others said about him to

make him feel better.

”Between the Hall of Fame and being fired in the same year, you

challenge your friends’ ability to transfer their feelings into

print,” the 64-year-old Foster said of the letters, texts and

other messages he’s gotten from peers, players and assistants.

”Some of them have been challenged to the point where we sort of

made a decision to cancel the funeral – there’s nothing left to

say.”

Spending time with his wife, Donna, at their vacation condo in

Arizona, he still isn’t ready to get out of coaching.

”It’s certainly on the front burner as we speak,” he said,

declining to mention details. ”I still have as much passion and

energy as I ever have.”

Ohio State fired him after an 18-13 season – his first with

fewer than 20 wins and without an NCAA tournament invitation at the

school. Miechelle Willis, the associate athletic director who

oversees the women’s program, pointed to the quick knockout

Foster’s teams frequently suffered in the NCAA tournament.

”There has been some discussion with the postseason production,

or lack thereof,” she said when the decision was announced on

March 19.

Foster’s teams set an Ohio State record by reaching the NCAA

tournament 10 years in a row before this past season. Despite being

nationally ranked for most of a decade and in the top 10 for five

of those years, the Buckeyes never advanced beyond the round of

16.

Despite losing his top two players to graduation from this

year’s team (Tayler Hill, drafted No. 4 by the WNBA’s Washington

Mystics on Monday, along with defensive whiz Amber Stokes), Foster

had high hopes for next season.

”I was really looking forward to coaching this team next year

because I thought we’d really found a key with Raven (Ferguson) and

a four-guards lineup,” he said. ”And we had a junior-college kid

who had verbaled to us and we’d had a European player that really

wanted to come. So we were really enthusiastic about this year. And

that enthusiasm hasn’t waned.”

Instead of moving into a new home that he and his wife are

building in Columbus, Foster will put it on the market and move

elsewhere.

If it crossed his mind to simply retire and enjoy the fruits of

his 35-year head-coaching career, the words of former players and

assistants such as Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma swayed him to go

with his heart.

”The thing that keeps occurring is former players in a lot of

different ways and with a lot of different words wanting me to

continue doing what I do,” he said. ”That weighs heavily in the

thought process.”

In spite of all the victories, when asked to pinpoint a

highlight of his time at Ohio State, Foster brought up something

that had little to do with what took place on the court.

”We had a couple of special admits. We sort of got an

opportunity to get some people in who might not necessarily have

gotten into school,” he said. ”The day that they graduated sort

of justified the trust that the admission folks had in us and

helped you to realize … the first one to graduate in a family is

a big deal, the first one in the family to go to college is a big

deal.”

He did not discount the big victories, however, on his list of

favorite memories.

”And, certainly, cutting down nets,” he said. ”Championship

teams, they have a bond.”

Rusty Miller can be reached at

http://twitter.com/rustymillerap