PUCK SWAMI’S RAPID REACTION: DU WOMENS BASKETBALL COACH KERRY CREMEANS RESIGNS

kerrycremeans

Photo: University of Denver

To the surprise of virtually no one, DU women’s basketball coach Kerry Cremeans, who was hired five years ago from Auburn University to take DU women’s basketball to the next level as head coach, “resigned” today after a five-year coaching record of just 42 wins and a staggering 109 losses. Her five year contract was not renewed, and while the school terms it a “resignation,” she was clearly pushed out the door.

You just can’t sugar coat it — .278 is a humiliating career winning percentage for a coach. This is the lowest career winning percentage in DU women’s basketball history of any coach who led the team for more than a single season in the 40+ years since the program began in 1974. And in a DU athletic department full of coaching stars and very high-performing programs, Cremeans is perhaps the only failed coaching hire in Peg Bradley Doppes’ tenure as DU’s athletic director, which began in 2005.

Cremeans’ Pioneers sputtered to a lowly 6-24 record this season despite having an experienced team comprised of her recruits. Moreover, Cremeans’ five-year DU tenure was a constant struggle to retain healthy players, retain assistant coaches and ultimately, a five-year failure to recruit enough good Division I level players.

Cremeans came to DU with some fanfare back in 2012. She had an impeccable basketball pedigree, including 10 NCAA appearances as an assistant coach, paying her dues at major programs such as Purdue, Florida, Kentucky and Auburn. Indeed, she was touted for her recruiting prowess, as the head recruiter under the legendary Nell Fortner at Purdue. But that kind of recruit never came to play for her at DU, and in college sports, coaches are only as good as the recruits that they can sign and develop.

Cremeans had also taken over a very respectable DU women’s program at that time. Indeed, the Pios had finished second in the West Division of the Sun Belt conference in each of former DU coach Erik Johnson’s four seasons from 2008-2012, when Johnson left for Boston College, where he is still head coach of the Eagles.

Personally, I’m sad it didn’t work out for “Coach Kerry.” If you’ve ever met her, you would want her to succeed. She always radiated with positive presence and enthusiasm for DU and she worked very hard as a coach. Her players performed well in the classroom and were always great in the community. Certainly, she had more than her share of injured veteran players which held her program back, but she also had a revolving door of assistant coaches, which didn’t help continuity, either. Team chemistry was also sometimes in short supply, as I can remember one of DU’s top senior leaders a few years ago, crying big tears in the concourse of Magness Arena, sharing that the seniors and coaches just could not get the younger players to gel with the older players.

In fact, almost every year of her DU coaching career got worse for Cremeans and her Pios. She started out with 14 wins and 17 losses in her first season in 2012-2013, and little did we know it would be her best year, as she would never see double digit wins again. Her next season, DU slipped to 9-23 in 2013-2014, but she generated a few moments of joy during the Pios’ shocking Summit League tourney run. In fact DU made that dud season ending a little more optimistic, as the sixth-seeded Pios upset three-seed Fort Wayne in the quarterfinals, and then in the semifinal game, DU upset two-seed IUPUI in overtime. Cremeans had led the Pioneers to the Summit League Championship Finals against South Dakota, but the Pios fell on wobbly legs to the Coyotes, after having to play three games in three days. Denver would eventually finish as Summit tournament runner-up, falling just one win shy of receiving a NCAA Tournament berth.

The following season, DU stumbled to a dreadful 8-23 record in 2014-2015, and just when we thought it it couldn’t get any worse, it actually did — with last season’s 5-win, 25-loss embarrassment, the worst season of her career. Many people expected Cremeans to be fired after that last awful season, but there were two decent reasons to let her finish out her five year contract this year. First, DU had just fired winning men’s hoops coach Joe Scott last year and had to buy him out of his contract, and there wasn’t much more buyout money lying around to buy out other fired basketball coaches. The second reason may have been that Cremeans had also just given birth to twins that year, which might have been seen by some as awkward from an employment standpoint, had DU just fired a new mother. This season’s poor 6-26 failure was just one more win than her career low of five last year, and even Kerry would have to agree that a .278 career coaching record just won’t cut it in D-I basketball as a head coach.

Why did such a hard-working, pedigreed coach fail at DU? I don’t profess to be a women’s basketball expert – only a DU fan with an opinion. But I’ve seen many coaches succeed here in many sports at DU, and here’s what I do know: The best ones win here because they know how to win recruits in the key recruiting areas locally, as well as recruiting well outside of Colorado. For example, Hockey coach Jim Montgomery gets top hockey players from primarily from Western Canada, the West Coast of the USA, Colorado, St. Louis, Minnesota and even Finland.  Bill Tierney owns the three “C”s  —Canada, California and Colorado for DU lacrosse (with others from Eastern hotbeds and other under recruited areas sprinkled in). DU women’s lacrosse has deep recruiting connections in Maryland, as well as here in Colorado.

In women’s basketball, Colorado is a pretty key recruiting ground nationally, but it seems to me that Cremeans never was able to get top level Colorado recruits to come here. In fact, only two Coloradoans were on her entire 15-person roster when she “resigned,” and only one of them was an all-state player in high school. It seems to me that the next coach will need to start winning recruiting battles here at home as a base in order to have a chance at building the program back to respectability.

Good luck to Kerry in her next adventure, and let’s hope Peg has some better luck hiring this time around. Go Pios!

Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a longtime DU Fan and Alumnus. He contributes his views from time to time here at LetsGoDU.com

5 thoughts on “PUCK SWAMI’S RAPID REACTION: DU WOMENS BASKETBALL COACH KERRY CREMEANS RESIGNS”

  1. I wish Kerry the very best.

    Erik Johnson was able to sign top Colorado prospects and create a buzz for DU women’s basketball when he was here. At BC, he only won 9 games this year so not sure of his interest & potential availability to return to Denver. He recruited very athletic local kids with good size and skill. I think he understands DU and the local preps hoop scene. He would be an ideal candidate to come back to Denver and stabilize the program. Plus, he has more experience as well that he would be bringing back to Denver. If I had a vote, I would take a serious look at Johnson returning to University & Evans.

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    1. Erik Johnson was very well liked at DU , and still faces a very uphill battle to win double-digit games in the ACC where BC must compete with some of the nation’s best programs. Not sure if BC likes where they are with Erik, but he would certainly put up more wins with DU in the Summit than Kerry Cremeans was able to generate….Erik would be an easy choice, if he would even want it, now that he’s in the ACC.

      That said, Erik was not able to get DU to the top of the Sun Belt, when he was here, either, and given how competitive she is, Peg very well might want a clean break from the past, given the program is currently ranked a very lowly #308 out of #349 in the RPI.

      I’d like to see what Peg can generate with a national search. Given she tried hiring a high level, big program assistant with Kerry last time around, I could see Peg shifting priorities –perhaps trying to hire a former head coach who has proven ability to get his/her team to the dance, or perhaps someone with a strong knowledge of the current Front Range talent pool, or someone with both of those qualities, if they exist.

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  2. Current University of Texas assistant coach Jamie Carey would seem to be an ideal fit for DU’s women’s basketball opening. She is a native Coloradan with coaching experience at NCAA (1 year at Texas, 2 years at Colorado), USA Basketball, and Colorado high school levels (Sand Creek and Legacy HS). She coached former DU standout and Gatorade State Player of the Year Quincey Noonan at Legacy. Carey is praised by former players as an excellent coach and mentor. As a player herself, Carey was 1999 Miss Colorado Basketball, 2000 Pac-10 Conference Freshman of the Year at Stanford University before concussion issues and a transfer to University of Texas, where she was a two-time All-Big 12 Conference selection and then played 4 years in the WNBA. Carey would seem to be in a similar position to Rodney Billups a year ago as an up-and-coming assistant coach on an NCAA tournament team with strong Colorado ties who is bound to get a head coaching offer soon.
    http://texassports.com/news/2016/4/28/jamie-carey-named-womens-basketball-assistant-coach.aspx
    http://www.coloradohometownweekly.com/sports/ci_27174022/cu-womens-basketball-buffs-lexy-kresl-learns-from
    http://www.hookem.com/story/carey-named-assistant-basketball-coach-at-texas/

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  3. Sounds like a very nice candidate from a local recruiting perspective. This issue would be does DU want to hire another women’s assistant coach with no head coaching experience above high school? They did that in 2012 with Cremeans, and it didn’t work out. What’s more important – local connections or head coaching experience? Can they get both?

    If I am DU, I would be interested in talking to Ceal Barry to see if she would be interested to get into coaching again after retiring young from CU…

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  4. Yes Barry would be an interesting candidate but does she have interest in turning around a program at age 61? A number of her former CU assistant coaches have become NCAA head coaches but none appear that viable – Raegan Pebley has had two winning seasons in Big 12 at TCU and is not a Coloradan, Matt Daniel just stepped down from Marshall for family reasons and is returning to Arkansas, Linda Lappe has just been at USF for 1 year after being fired at CU, Tanya Haave is at Metro State (earlier fired from USF), Barb Smith was just fired after 4 losing seasons at Illinois State.

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