Coach Crenshaw, who is originally from Meridian, Mississippi, played her college ball on the Capstone in Tuscaloosa. Before coming to Georgia in 2011, she had previous stints as an assistant coach at Troy, Louisiana Tech, Alabama, and LSU. She was known as a recruiter when she came to the Classic City, and has been the recruiting coordinator in Athens under Landers.
Greg McGarity's choice of Crenshaw isn't particularly bold or unusual, as I discussed in my coaching candidates post nearly a month ago. Promoting the retiring coach's top assistant is the classic move for every AD who either a) couldn't get the candidate he really wanted, or b) doesn't really know what direction his program needs to go. What's really telling about this situation is the timing. If the AD had always simply wanted to promote Crenshaw from day one, he could have made his announcement literally a month ago. Instead, he waited until about a week after the NCAA Tournament was over. You can spin that under the veil of "trying to conduct a national coaching search," but I suspect the real truth is that McGarity's top target was the head coach or an assistant on a Final Four team (UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Maryland), and he couldn't close the deal.
That language might sound a little harsh towards Greg McGarity (and, indirectly, towards Joni Crenshaw, which is not my intention), but I don't think I'm overstating my point. I honestly don't think that our current AD is incompetent, so I simply refuse to believe that the timing of this announcement is coincidental. He didn't just screw around for a month and then decide to promote from within. I also don't believe for a minute that he was actually trying to lure USC head coach Dawn Staley (who is the person I would I have really liked to see being introduced in Athens). There was a rumor floating around that he was targeting a Notre Dame assistant whose star has been rising quickly, Niele Ivey, and there was even a round-trip flight to Athens last Friday from South Bend, Indiana, which gave credence to those rumors. We won't ever know the real truth of the situation, but if McGarity really was trying to lure the Irish's least-tenured assistant coach and failed, that's just pitiful. (I wouldn't assume that, though, based on just a couple of internet rumors. The internet gonna internet. The more I looked at Ivey, though, the more I thought that really would have been an intriguing Jeremey Foley-esque hire.) No matter what the real story is, however, it seems clear that Coach Crenshaw is at least our second choice, if not third.
The other primary reservation I have about naming Joni Crenshaw the head coach is completely unfair and illogical, but I can't help history. In his tenure at Georgia, Greg McGarity has already had an opportunity to replace one of the greatest coaches in the history of their particular sport, and he promoted that coach's top assistant and recruiting coordinator. That coach was Suzanne Yoculan, and her successor was Jay Clark. And while Clark has proven in his time after leaving Athens that he is, quite possibly, the best assistant gymnastics coach in the country, his tenure as the head man at Georgia was an unmitigated disaster. And Vince Dooley did the same thing during his tenure at AD, promoting his recruiting coordinator Ray Goff. And at other schools... Bill Guthridge after Dean Smith, Ray Perkins after the Bear, and Bob Davie after Lou Holtz at Notre Dame, just to name a handful off the top of my head. Promoting the legendary coach's top assistant just doesn't have a good track record, at Georgia or otherwise.
There are a lot of questions, certainly. Crenshaw was our recruiting coordinator and came into Athens with a solid set of credentials, but she hadn't exactly been tearing up the recruiting trail in her previous 4 years. And who knows how effectively she'll make the transition from the assistant's chair to the head coach's chair. We're all Bulldog fans here, though, and in spite of all the questions, we still want Georgia to win, and so we'd love to see Coach Crenshaw to be wildly successful.
Will Joni Crenshaw be the coach that leads Georgia back to the promised land of the Final Four? Will she deliver to us that national championship that eluded Andy Landers for 36 years? Only time will tell. For now, though, I wish Coach Crenshaw good luck!