College Basketball: Maine picks Barron for women’s post

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Mired in the worst stretch in the history of the program, University of Maine women’s basketball needed someone with head coaching experience and proven recruiting success.

Maine apparently landed both with the announcement Monday that Richard Barron will become the Black Bears’ next leader.

Barron, 42, comes to Maine with an impressive list of accomplishments both as a head coach and as an assistant.

He headed the program at Princeton for six years, leading the Tigers to the Ivy League championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament in 2006.

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At Baylor, Barron spent two seasons as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator.

Among his recruits in that time was 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner, one of the top players in the country. Baylor’s recruiting class was rated best in the nation.

Barron most recently spent two years as assistant to Kellie Harper at North Carolina State.

“Coach Barron brings a remarkable combination of experience, vision and energy to the University of Maine,” Maine athletic director Steve Abbott said in a news release. “He exemplifies all the characteristics we were looking for in a head coach, particularly a track record of success at top-quality academic institutions competing at the Division I level.”

Perhaps Barron’s time at Princeton made him best qualified to take over what had become a mess at Maine.

The year before Barron inherited that program, the Tigers went 2-25.

They improved to 11 wins in his first season. In the 2006 championship campaign, the Tigers set school records for conference (12) and overall (21) victories. One of Barron’s top players was Meagan Cowher, daughter of former NFL coach Bill Cowher.

Maine is stuck in a similar rut after a record-low four wins in 2010-11.

In four years under legendary former player Cindy Blodgett, the Black Bears averaged only six wins per season. Maine lost many prominent in-state recruits to other schools in the America East conference. Several of its top players quit the team during Blodgett’s tenure.

Blodgett was once part of a program that once made six consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament.

Maine defeated Stanford in a first-round game in 1999 and suffered close playoff losses to LSU and North Carolina during its time in the national spotlight.

Barron also was a successful coach in Division III. He led University of the South of Sewanee, Tenn., to the first league championship in its history. The women were ranked as high as No. 8 in the nation during his tenure.

In 11 years as a head coach at all levels, Barron has a record of 152-139. During his time at Baylor, the Bears were 54-13.

Barron prevailed in a national search that saw Maine field more than 70 candidates.

His tentative annual salary will be $110,000 per year, according to the news release.

Barron will hold a news conference and a meet-and-greet with fans Tuesday oin campus.

koakes@sunjournal.com

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