The University of Maine appears close to filling its women’s basketball head coaching position.
Two candidates, both of them men, have visited Orono during the last several days in pursuit of the job left vacant when former UMaine All-American and Clinton native Cindy Blodgett was fired March 29 by UMaine athletic director Steve Abbott.
Longtime Division I women’s coaches Richard Barron and Rick Reeves have been on campus to meet with the search committee and members of the UMaine athletic staff, according to a source with knowledge of the process.
There may be other on-campus interviews, depending upon whether the job is offered to and is accepted by either Barron or Reeves.
Abbott on Wednesday evening said the seven-member search committee chaired by former UMaine dean Robert Cobb had not yet made a final recommendation to him. He added the job had not been offered to any candidate.
“I really am feeling good (about the candidates),” Abbott said.
Abbott conceded the pool of remaining candidates is small and said an announcement could be forthcoming soon, but there are no guarantees because of the potential dynamics of the negotiation process.
“We’re trying to get somebody (by) next week,” Abbott said. “When I say we’re down to a small group, that’s internally. Externally, we still have 70 candidates. It’s possible that a coach could come out of the larger pool, but I would expect right now that the coach would come out of the smaller pool.”
Barron, who is at North Carolina State, was on the Orono campus Friday, while Reeves, the coach at Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C., made his visit Wednesday.
Barron has spent the last two seasons as an assistant under North Carolina State women’s coach Kellie Harper. The 42-year-old Barron boasts an extensive college coaching resume that includes 11 seasons as a head coach (with a 151-139 overall record) and eight more as an assistant.
Prior to N.C. State, he spent two seasons as the recruiting coordinator at Baylor, where he helped land the nation’s top prospect, Brittney Griner, in 2009. Barron arrived in Waco after spending six seasons as the head women’s coach at Princeton. There, he guided the Tigers to a 74-91 record, including the 2006 Ivy League championship.
With Princeton, Barron inherited a team that went 2-25 prior to his arrival but had an 11-16 record during his first season (2001-02). It was one of the best turnarounds that season.
Barron began his coaching career at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was an assistant coach with the men’s program before leading the women for five seasons (1996-2001), posting a 77-48 mark.
Barron is a Tennessee native who played basketball and baseball at Kenyon College in Ohio. He graduated cum laude in 1981 with a degree in biology.
The 53-year-old Reeves has built his reputation on rebuilding programs.
Reeves, a 1981 graduate of Indiana State, has 25 seasons of head coaching experience and owns a 399-331 record. He has spent the last seven years at Gardner-Webb, guiding the Lady Bulldogs to a 118-111 mark while winning four Big South Coach of the Year honors.
Gardner-Webb went 51-16 (.761) over the last two winters, including 28-5 in 2009-10.
Reeves, who previously spent five seasons at Southern Mississippi (68-74), also logged nine seasons at Liberty (139-118) and four at University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky (77-39).