This is part two in my series on Ohio State Women’s basketball. Originally had intended to do these in back to back weeks, but it became apparent early on that Coach Foster may have been coaching his last season, and that became true. So with the help from Charles, this is the finishing product on the women’s dominance of the B1G. Check out my previous article here.
After the firing of Nancy Darsch following the 1997 season, the Buckeye brass wasted little time stealing Beth Burns away from San Diego State. Coach Burns returned to SDSU after her brief stint with the Buckeyes form 1997 to 2002 at which point she was replaced by Jim Foster. After a combined 16 seasons at SDSU before and after OSU she resigned unexpectedly recently. Let’s take a good look at her term with Ohio State.
She finished her stint 81-65 overall and never really hit her stride while in Columbus. A tenacious and aggressive style of coaching along with a great knowledge of the game never really paid off with players that were left from the Darsch era and the players that she brought in ended up not fitting in either. The stigma of three 8th place finishes, one 4th and a 5th in the B1G even took Foster a couple years to get things rolling.
The firing of coaches is met with a wide range of emotions by fans, with some firings eliciting happiness and shouts of “good riddance” from the fans while others spark anger in the fans for the loss of a beloved coach. The announcement that Jim Foster would not be returning as the head coach of the Ohio State women’s basketball team was met with a more complex set of emotions by many, including myself. My feelings regarding Foster’s firing would best be described as bittersweet. Foster was a great coach, and even better person, who markedly improved the women’s basketball program. At the same time, despite Foster’s dominance in the Big Ten he was never able to get the team to take the next step and the past three seasons had seen a decline even in the performance in conference.
As WVaBuckeye pointed out in the excellent first part of his series on Ohio State women’s basketball’s history of success, the Buckeyes dominated the Big Ten in the early days of the conference sponsoring the sport in the 1980s, also enjoying a run of NCAA tournament success during those years. By the late 1990s that dominance in the conference had evaporated, along with pretty much all of the postseason success. In the five years before Foster arrived, OSU had an overall record of 81-65 but went 35-45 in the Big Ten and never finished higher than a tie for fourth place in the conference. The Buckeyes did win the WNIT in 2001 but a sub-.500 record the following year led to the firing of Beth Burns as head coach and the hiring of Jim Foster.
I guess in a way you could say it was fate that drew me to Katie Smith. Born Katherine May to John and Barbara Smith and with two brothers John and Tom who both played college sports. I started following her just prior to her signing with Ohio State while finishing a stellar high school career at Logan High School.
I say fate because right away, I was a fan of women’s basketball – mostly because of her. There were other reasons and the big one came in the size of my own daughter playing guard and reminding me of her in just about all aspects of women’s basketball. Hustle, tenacity, intensity and talent all express what makes up my daughter’s basketball identity. They also remind me of my favorite parts of Katie’s game.