Women’s basketball head coach Mike Bozeman was fired Monday after a four-year program slide that saw the team fall from back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances to an 11-18 season this year.
Athletics department officials made the decision to dismiss the head coach just three days after the Colonials lost in the first round of the 2012 A-10 tournament to Duquesne. It was the departure from past successes that ultimately led to Bozeman’s dismissal, Senior Vice Provost and Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak said.
“While certainly recognizing that Mike has always put forward his best efforts to keep the program competitive, unfortunately the team’s performance over the past few seasons has not maintained the standard of excellence to which we had been accustomed," Chernak said.
The head coach’s four-year contract was set to expire this June, and Bozeman’s assistant coaches will not return.
The University will begin a search for his replacement immediately, with the Washington Post reporting that possible candidates for the job include two former Colonial standouts: Lisa Cermignano and Tajama Abraham Ngongba. None of the names discussed as potential replacements have been released officially through the University, athletics communications director Brian Sereno said.
“I‘m not saying that they aren’t accurate, I’m just saying that they didn’t get those names from anyone in athletics. It’s pure speculation,” Sereno said. “We don’t have anything to say about replacements at this point in time.”
A decision will likely be made over the next month, given athletic director Patrick Nero’s penchant for swift hires and the need to implement a new coaching staff before the offseason begins.
Bozeman said that, while disappointed, he understood the decision, and remains proud of his time with the Colonials.
“First of all, I hold no ill feelings toward the University. From the president, to [former director of athletics] Jack Kvancz, who gave me my first head coaching job, to [former head coach] Joe McKeown who is my mentor. It’s just a tough situation,” Bozeman said. “I inherited a tough situation. I don’t even hold anything against Mr. Nero. He’s commissioned to come in here and get the whole athletic department to the top of the conference, and I understand that.”
Bozeman took over the women’s basketball program in 2008 following the departure of McKeown. While on McKeown’s coaching staff for three seasons, Bozeman saw the team garner 78 victories, three NCAA tournament appearances, and back-to-back Sweet 16 bids.
The Colonials’ success declined after Bozeman’s hire. Hampered by injuries and limited depth over the past four seasons, Bozeman's program posted a 42-75 (.359), including a 19-37 (.339) mark in Atlantic 10 play. In his first season as head coach, Bozeman struggled to fill the holes left by the graduation of three talented players, and the team failed to advance past the first round of the A-10 tournament. It was the first time in 23 years the Colonials hadn’t at least made the second round of play.
The following season was a hint of the problems injuries would pose in years to come, as GW wrapped the 2009-10 season with just eight available players, finishing 6-22 overall and falling in the first round of the A-10 tournament to Duquesne. The year after that, the Colonials again fell in the first round, this time to Dayton, with a regular season record of 8-21 and again suiting just eight players.
Prior to the 2011-12 season, Bozeman restructured his team’s gameplan and spoke of returning power to Foggy Bottom, and brought in a recruiting class for the 2012-13 season that was ranked in the top 60 by ESPN HoopGurlz.
But GW again fell prey to injuries, at times suiting up a six-person roster for games, and finished 11-18 overall after falling in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament to Duquesne. Sereno said Monday there was no available information about the status of current women’s basketball recruits. No current Colonials have announced a decision to transfer following Bozeman’s dismissal.
“We lost our games by an average of one point this year, which is incredible to me with everything that we’ve been through. I’m not beat down by the experience. I don’t feel vindicated at all by the results, they are what they are, my record is what it is here, but I know I’ve been a part of those back-to-back Sweet 16 teams and I know I know how to get us there,” Bozeman said. “The one thing I couldn’t defeat was the injuries.”
Bozeman’s departure is the second A-10 women’s basketball release over the past week, following the dismissal of the head coach at Saint Louis. It is also marks the second time in a year that the head coach of a University basketball program has been dismissed. Former men’s basketball head coach Karl Hobbs was relieved from his post last April and replaced by Mike Lonergan.
Bozeman said members of the women’s basketball team stopped by his office Monday after meeting with Nero. It was an emotional goodbye, he said, but he encouraged the team to continue to strive for success next season.
“They stopped by the office and were very emotional. I was okay until I saw them. It’s an emotional investment,” Bozeman said. “I told them whoever the coach is, they need to play hard for. They need to play hard for themselves first.”