Looking at Princeton’s potential head coaching candidates to succeed Courtney Banghart

Prior the arrival of Courtney Banghart in 2007, the Princeton women’s team had zero Ivy League titles.

Twelve years later, the Tigers have seven Ivy championships, eight NCAA Tournament appearances, two trips to the WNIT and two Ivy Tournament titles.  With Banghart’s departure to UNC Tuesday, Princeton athletic director Mollie Marcoux Samaan has an incredibly important hire to make.  If she chooses correctly, the Tigers may continue to hang onto their place atop the Ancient Eight.  If not, the Orange & Black run the risk of dropping into the second division, fighting for spots in the Ivy and NCAA Tournaments on an annual basis.

While Princeton Athletics has noted that a nationwide search has begun, there have been no specific names mentioned.  Who might Marcoux Samaan consider for the chance to add to the legacy that Banghart left behind?

Branches from the Banghart coaching tree

Megan Griffith – current Columbia head Coach, former Princeton assistant coach
Prior to returning to her alma mater in the spring of 2016, Griffith worked with Banghart for six seasons. After spending the first two seasons as director of basketball operations, she became an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator from 2012 to 2016 after serving as director of basketball operations there the previous two seasons.  While she is only 29-54 overall and 9-33 in the Ivy League over her first three seasons at Columbia, her young team was competitive in conference play this season and is on the cusp of a breakout season in 2019-2020.  She has shown herself to be an excellent recruiter, bringing in Rookie of the Year Sienna Durr, Mikayla Markham and Madison Hardy this year and another strong class expected this fall.  As a player, Griffith captained the Lions for three years, scoring more than 1,000 points and being named to two All-Ivy teams before heading to Europe for three seasons of professional ball.

Chessie Jackson – present College of New Jersey head coach, former Princeton assistant coach
Jackson, who was an assistant coach for Banghart from 2015 to 2017, has been the head coach at the College of New Jersey the last two years.  In that time, she has gone 39-16 with a 30-6 record in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), one appearance in the Division III Championship Tournament and two NJAC Coach of the Year honors.  She played four years at Williams College (2007-2011), followed by two years as a graduate assistant at Smith College.  She then spent two years as an assistant and recruiting coordinator at Rochester before returning to Smith in the same roles for 2014-2015.  She ended her playing career with 1,346 points and 635 rebounds, as well as being selected to two All-NESCAC teams.

 

Milena Flores – former Princeton assistant coach
Flores worked by Banghart’s side from 2007-18), helping the Tigers to a 232-93 record with nine straight postseason appearances, six Ivy League championships and seven NCAA tournament appearances.  She returned to her home in the Seattle area following the 2017-18 season to assist low-income students of color getting into and graduating from colleges.  After a career playing for Stanford (1996-2000; three-year starter; two time first team All-Pac 10, one Final Four), the WNBA’s Miami Sol and Lithuania’s Lietuvos Telekomas, Flores became an assistant coach at the University of the Pacific from 2002 to 2004, Lehigh for one season and Yale from 2005 to 2007.

Carrie Moore – Princeton assistant coach
Moore started her work at Princeton as Director of Basketball Operations from 2008 to 2010.  After five years as an assistant coach at Creighton, she returned to assume the same position with the Tigers.  During her four-year career at Western Michigan (2003-2007), she amassed 2,216 points and led the nation in scoring (25.4 points per game) in her senior year.  She then played professionally in Poland for a year before coming to Princeton.

Addie Micir – Princeton Assistant Coach
Micir, who played for Tigers from 2007 through 2011, returned to Princeton in 2018-2019 after five seasons on the bench at Dartmouth as an assistant to Belle Koclanes.  During her playing career for the Orange & Black, Micir played all five positions, made three All-Ivy teams and was named the Ivy Player of the Year in her senior year. The Tigers went 50-8 in her last two seasons as a player after finishing 16 games under .500 in her (and Banghart’s) first two seasons at Princeton.

Non-Princeton Ivy League assistants

Bernadette Laukaitis – current Penn assistant coach
Laukaitis has been an assistant coach on Mike McLaughlin’s staff since he took over as head coach at Penn in 2009.  During that time, she helped the Quakers to six straight 20-plus win seasons, two Big 5 titles, four Ivy League championships, three NCAA Tournament berths and one Ivy Tournament championship.  After playing for McLaughlin for four years at Holy Family (1996-2000), she joined his staff from 2000 through 2008.  During that time, she helped the team to eight Central Athletic Collegiate Conference (CACC) regular and five postseason tournament titles. She then spent the 2008-09 year as the head coach at Cabrini College, leading the Cavaliers to a 23-5 record, as well as regular season and postseason tournament championships.

Mike Roux – current Harvard associate head coach
Roux has been on Kathy Delaney-Smith’s staff at Harvard since 2015 with the last two years as associate head coach.  In those four seasons, he has helped the Crimson to four straight third-place finishes and WNIT appearances.  Prior to his time at Cambridge, Roux had been an assistant coach from 2003 at Nichols College, Southern New Hampshire, Holy Cross and the University of New Hampshire.  In his time as a student at Assumption College, he assisted the women’s basketball team as a member of the practice squad.

Non-Ivy League Coaches

Tricia Fabbri – current Quinnipiac Head Coach
Fabbri has led Quinnipiac for the last 24 years and seen the Bobcats move from Division II (1995-1998) to the Northeast Conference (1998-2013) to the MAAC (2013-present).  Over that time, she has amassed a 433-288 (.601) record.  Since the 2011-12 season, Fabbri’s teams have gone 212-58 (.791) overall and 135-17 (.888) in conference games.  In those eight seasons, she has coached teams to five NCAA and three WNIT appearances, making it into the second round of both tournaments one time and a trip to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 in 2017.  During her time in the NEC and MAAC, she has won six Coach of the Year awards, while coaching 48 all-league players, eight Rookies of the Year and 31 All-Academic honorees.  Fabbri is a graduate of Fairfield University, where she finished with 1,622 points and 1,037 rebounds as well as three All-MAAC selections.

Amy Vachon – current Maine Head Coach
Vachon, a 2000 graduate of Maine, returned to her alma mater as an assistant coach in 2011.  After then-head coach (and former Princeton head coach, preceding Banghart) Richard Barron stepped down from his position due to health problems in late 2016, Vachon took over for the last 18 games of the 2016-17 campaign.  She was named interim head coach for the 2017-18 season and then permanent head coach in March 2018.  In her first two full seasons in charge, her teams has gone 48-18 (.727) overall and 28-4 (.875) in the America East.  She has led her team to back-to-back AE regular and post-season championships with two NCAA Tournament appearances and two AE Coach of the Year awards.  In her four years playing for the Black Bears, her teams made four straight NCAA Tournaments, while she finished with a school and AE record 759 assists.

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Listening to Banghart over the last several seasons, she expected her team to continue to compete for Ivy titles as they looked to become a permanent presence in the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen.

Marcoux Samaan could decide to choose a coach with more experience than former AD Gary Walters did when he took a chance on the 29-year old Banghart, who had never led a college program.

Such an approach would put Fabbri, Griffith, Jackson and Vachon in the first tier of candidates.

While Banghart had tremendous success at Princeton over the last decade, Fabbri has arguably led the strongest mid-major program in the northeast.  After dominating the MAAC, which is the 26th ranked conference according to the RPI, Fabbri could decide to make a leap into the stronger Ivy League (RPI ranked No. 11).  Since Quinnipiac extended Fabbri’s contract after the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, while it extended the contract of men’s coach Baker Dunleavy following his first season with the Bobcats, it would seem that QU has the commitment to try to match any offer from Princeton unless Fabbri truly wants to try a new challenge.

As the only coach on this list with both Princeton coaching and Ivy League head coaching experience, Griffith would seem to be a strong choice to take over a Tigers program that sits ahead of the Lions at the top of the Ancient Eight.  While it is not usual for a coach to switch teams within the Ancient Eight, Penn’s former AD Steve Bilsky chose then-Brown head coach Glen Miller to take over for legendary coach Fran Dunphy and Columbia’s current AD Peter Pilling snatched Quaker football coach Al Bagnoli three weeks after he finished his historic coaching career and started his administrative role with Penn Athletics.  Unless Griffith didn’t think she would be able to get enough support from Columbia to continue building for a title, it is hard to see her leaving her alma mater.

Micir has talked about how coming over from Dartmouth, where she learned to communicate more effectively as a coach under head Belle Koclanes, helped her gain the perspective of opponents facing Princeton and how she’s grown more comfortable , being tuned into the digital aspect of recruiting

Jackson, like Griffith, has the Princeton connection and success in her head coaching experience, but it has only been for two years at a lower level of Division III competition.  “Chessie is a star and I knew it upon our first meeting,” Coach Banghart told The Trentonian in January 2018.  “She is able to connect quickly with people.  She has a gentle demeanor and a charisma and wit that endears her to all. She is so smart, with a kindness and work ethic that would ensure success in any career path.”

If Jackson is interested in moving up the coaching ladder, the decision would seem to be based on Marcoux Samaan’s confidence that Jackson could succeed at the next level since the Tigers should be able to outbid the smaller public university where she now works.

Vachon, like Fabbri and Banghart, has run one of the top mid-majors in the northeast but has only for two-plus seasons. The AE conference may only be ranked 23rd-best according to the RPI, but her team was ranked in the top 60 nationally and she has shown the ability to compete against Ivy competition.  In her two years in charge of the Black Bears, her teams have gone a perfect 5-0 against Harvard (twice), Penn, Dartmouth and Brown.  If the Tigers’ AD feels a head coach with Division 1 success who she feels can win in the Ivy League and is financially obtainable, then Vachon would appear to be a good fit since Vachon signed a four year contract in 2018 that started at $120,000 with a $5,000 a year raise.

If Princeton could not get anyone from of this group, or wanted to give someone their first head coaching job, then it would seem likely that Marcoux Samaan would reach out to Flores to gauge her interest in getting back into the coaching game.  Outside of Flores, it would seem that the choice would be between trying to lure the more experienced assistants from Philadelphia or Boston or choosing between the present assistant coaches.

 

 

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