UCFSports - Search begins for new women's basketball coach
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Search begins for new women's basketball coach

UCF's season of change continued on Monday with the dismissal of women's basketball coach Joi Williams.

Athletic Director Danny White, on the job since December, announced the firing in a press release.

"We appreciate everything that Coach Williams has done for the program over the last nine years," White said in the statement. "In my short time getting to know Joi, it is clear that she has great character and has led our program with tremendous class and integrity," White said. “I have given much thought and consideration to this decision, and it is time to move in a different direction. We thank Joi for all of her efforts and wish her the best in her future endeavors."

The move hardly comes as a surprise. Williams led the Knights to just one winning season (2010-11) in nine years and those records had been trending downward in recent years:

2015-2016: 7-23 (4-14 AAC)
2014-2015: 9-21 (5-13 AAC)
2013-2014: 10-20 (3-15 AAC)
2012-2013: 16-18 (7-9 C-USA)
2011-2012: 12-17 (7-9 C-USA)

Williams did advance to the NCAA postseason on two occasions (2009, 2011) following Conference USA tournament championships, but the team had been uncompetitive since making the move to the American Athletic Conference three years ago.

Granted, not many programs can compete head-to-head with national juggernaut UConn - the Huskies have won the last three national championships and five of the last seven - but it is still possible to be nationally-competitive in the American. The prime example is USF, which should reach their third NCAA Tournament in four seasons and have been ranked in the top 25 for the entire year.

UCF paid Williams a salary in the $300,000 range, a figure in line with other top salaries in the American not including UConn (Geno Auriemma will make around $2M this year).

For comparison's sake, USF's Jose Fernandez received a contract extension last year that raised his annual salary from $350,000 to $425,000. The new six-year, $2.9 million deal, which went into effect this season, will see a salary increase each season. That's more than Florida coach Amanda Butler, who makes about $380,000 per year.

UCF will be one of the most sought-after jobs this offseason according to Kenny Kallina, director of the Jacksonville-based FGB travel team and Kenny Kallina Scouting.

"It's a great location so I know UCF is very appealing to a lot of candidates," Kallina said. "Wisconsin, Arizona and Colorado are also open and I imagine UCF will be fishing in the same pond. For the same money, UCF is a better job because there's less of a rebuilding of a roster they have to do."

Kallina is very high on UCF's incoming recruiting class, most notably the two local players: Korneila Wright (Jones High School) and Ciara Thompson (West Orange).

"If I was the AD at UCF, I would be making sure that Korneila Wright sticks regardless of who is hired," Kallina said. "She's that good. They beat Florida, Miami and a few others to sign her. Ciara (Thompson) is a very good player also. Those kids are probably good enough to get them to the NCAA Tournament if they had some help. They're kids of that caliber. It's just a matter of consistently getting those types of players."

Just like football, Florida is one of the nation's top states in women's basketball recruiting. Kallina said the upcoming 2017 class is one of the best he's seen.

"Orlando has some of the best talent, right up there with South Florida," Kallina said. "There's usually four to five top-level players coming out of the city every year. Some of those are top-10 program type kids, but that's still a pool to draw from later on with transfers. The Florida junior colleges are also fantastic."

Kallina, who coached UCF's second-leading scorer Aliyah Gregory, feels Williams' downfall could be attributed to the difficulty in retaining top players. The Knights have lost several to transfer through the years, the latest and most notable being Briahanna Jackson, currently at Louisville. He also thought the departure of assistant coach Greg Brown, who left several years ago to become the head coach at Lipscomb, was also a blow.

"They've got to find somebody who's got a personality to match the school," Kallina said. "Somebody who's got a lot of energy to recruit and somebody that can coach. Joi was an old-school, hard-nosed coach. That doesn't always work with the kids these days. You have to have a different approach. If you're winning, you tolerate it, but that doesn't work once you stop winning."

Danny White likely already has his own list, but Kallina offered a few potential names to consider: Ohio State assistant Patrick Klein, Jacksonville head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin, Stetson (and former UCF) head coach Lynn Bria and Florida Gulf Coast's Karl Smesko.

"There's no reason to think if they can keep this recruiting class and keep the players they have on the team now that they couldn't finish in the middle of the league next season," Kallina said.