By Joe Scalzo
Ten years ago, Youngstown State took 43 days to replace its women’s basketball coach.
This time it took a week.
The Penguins hired Green Bay’s associate head coach, John Barnes, to replace Bob Boldon, who left the Penguins for Ohio University last week.
The 40-year-old Barnes spent seven years as the head coach at Division II Michigan Tech, going 156-55 while qualifying for the NCAA tournament five times. Before arriving in Green Bay last year, he spent a season as an assistant coach at both Michigan and Wisconsin.
Around noon on Friday, Barnes tweeted: “Thanks everyone! Very excited to be headed to Youngstown State!!”
Ron Strollo, YSU athletic director, said the school is still finalizing Barnes’ multi-year contract and that financial information will be available next week.
“We needed to move quick because we were kind of behind the 8-ball,” Strollo said. “A lot of other schools had been out there for two or three weeks.
“He has head coaching experience. He’s very, very familiar with our league. He’s very well-rounded in our region and he’s more than ready to be a head coach in Division I.”
Strollo said he first tried to keep Boldon, who took over a winless YSU team three years ago and led the Penguins to their best record in more than a decade this winter. But Strollo said the school couldn’t match Ohio’s $170,000 annual salary.
“He really enjoyed his time here but I think when he sat back, professionally he thought that was the best move for him,” Strollo said.
Strollo began searching for Boldon’s replacement immediately, reaching out to his contacts in the coaching community for candidates. Barnes’ name “was one of the first out of everyone’s mouth,” he said. YSU interviewed “three or four” candidates on campus and another “three or four” on the phone before deciding on Barnes.
“Our [coaching] searches, I don’t want to say they’ve gotten easier, but we’re attracting better candidates,” Strollo said. “The kids [on the team] were really excited [about the choice]. Obviously, they were really close to Coach Boldon and that previous staff [but] they were very excited this [search] is all over for them.”
Strollo said he believes YSU’s women’s basketball program is still in a building stage and that better things are ahead.
“We haven’t arrived yet,” he said.
Strollo said the school has finished a new weight room in Beeghly Center and that equipment was arriving “as we speak.” He also hopes to get a new scoreboard before next season. “We keep talking about the scoreboard and every time I bring it up, I get in trouble but clearly that’s a need for that program,” he said. “We’re continually going to try to upgrade Beeghly Center and clearly the scoreboard and even seating down the road are things we have interest in.” ... Strollo said it was “hard for me to speculate” on the Horizon League’s future amid rumors that Oakland would be joining and as many as three teams (UIC, Valpo and Loyola) could be leaving. He said YSU is committed to staying in both the Horizon League and the Missouri Valley Football Conference.