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ASU Women’s Basketball: Potential candidates to fill the void

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Who knows?

Zac BonDurant

It’s been nearing three weeks since Arizona State women’s basketball head coach Charli Turner Thorne retired after serving the maroon and gold for the past 25 years. It is a tall task to replace the second-winningest coach in Pac-12 women’s basketball history, so it seems like ASU is taking its time to find a replacement with a nationwide search.

While there are no names being thrown into the mix, we are going to take a look at a few possible options depending on which direction the school wants to go in order to find Turner Thorne’s successor. As a disclaimer, these are all pure speculation in an attempt to bring some life to this otherwise dormant (coverage-wise) coaching search.

Promote from within?

We mentioned in this past week’s Monday Mailbag, that it did not seem like the University was going to hire from within. Considering the quickly-moving state of the transfer portal, it would have been ideal for ASU to make this hire as quick as possible, especially if they were promoting from within the program.

Regardless it is a good place to start considering there is plenty of experience on staff. The one name that jumps out on paper is assistant coach Yvonne Sanchez. Sanchez joined Turner Thorne’s staff in the spring of 2021 and has been around the game for a while.

Sanchez has experience working at every level in a program, including as head coach. She tallied 77 wins in her five years at the helm of New Mexico and was named the 2014-15 Mountain West Coach of the Year.

It is not fair to put coaches in a box of being an “X’s and O’s” person or a “recruiter” but Sanchez has proven to be a great blend of both. Prior to joining the Sun Devils, Sanchez recruited two top-15 classes during her three-year stint at Michigan.

If the school wants a smoother transition and the increased likelihood of retaining some key players on the team, like All-Pac-12 guard Jade Loville or Meg Newman, hiring from within could still be on the table.

The Former Player

Amanda Levens spent two years at Old Dominion as a player before joining the Sun Devils for her final two years of her career. Levens, a two-time first team All-Pac-12 player, joined the coaching ranks in 2003 and is currently the head coach at Nevada.

What makes Levens an intriguing candidate is not only the fact that she played under Turner Thorne but also coached alongside her as the associate head coach (lead assistant) from 2012-2017.

Levens just finished up her fifth year leading the Wolfpack to a 20-13 record and reaching her 100th career win. The ASU job would be a step up for Levens in terms of going to a power five school and give her a chance to lead her alma mater once again.

We recently saw the Arizona State athletic department take a swing at hiring former Sun Devil Willie Bloomquist to lead the baseball team, even with no prior experience in that role. Ray Anderson, the vice president for university athletics at ASU, mentioned the passion Bloomquist had and for returning the program back to where it once was (in the top of college baseball).

Could they find that same passion in Levens and hire another former Sun Devil? She knows where ASU can be as a program (coached the 2015-16 regular season champs and made four-straight NCAA tournaments).

The Wild Card

It was announced on March 22 that Temple’s all-time winningest women’s basketball coach, Tonya Cardoza, would not be returning to the program. If Arizona State were to make a (relatively) big-name hire, this might be it.

Cardoza is from the Geno Auriemma coaching tree. In her 14 years as an assistant at UCONN, she helped secure five national championships and developed numerous All-American guards like Sue Bird, Renee Montgomery and Diana Taurasi.

In the guard-dominate play of the Pac-12 conference, that could be a selling point for Cardoza if she wants to make a move out west.

Cardoza coached the Owls since 2008 and posted a 238-173 record with seven total postseason appearances (four NCAA tournaments). She also won AAC Coach of the Year in 2017 and A-10 Coach of the Year in 2011.

A lot of power conference teams have filled in their jobs relatively quickly this coaching cycle, with more coaches being on the move as the NCAA tournaments progresses and teams get knocked out. If Arizona State feels like they have been waiting too long, there is potential for them to jump on Cardoza before it is too late.

Other notes

Two of the three names on this list have had ties to the west coast and specifically the Mountain West conference, in Levens and Sanchez. Could a new coach’s ability to bring in two former Mountain West players in Haley and Hanna Cavinder (who entered the transfer portal on March 15) be part of the equation?

The twins both averaged double-digits this past season for Fresno State, with Haley winning conference Player of the Year back in 2021. They are also two of the biggest names in the NIL marketplace and currently reside in Gilbert.

While it is all speculation at this point, a plan from ASU to bring in two players who have controlled NIL from the start and are extremely talented on the floor would be a great start for the next head coach of the program.