Bob the builder: Boldon duplicates success at OU

By Joe Scalzo

It took three years for Bob Boldon to resurrect the Youngstown State women’s basketball program.

At Ohio, he did it in two.

Two years after leading the Penguins to the second round of the WNIT, Boldon guided the Bobcats (25-4, 16-2) to their best season in two decades, earning Mid-American Conference coach of the year honors after helping the Bobcats to their first regular season MAC title since 1994-95.

With a win over Eastern Michigan in today’s MAC tournament final, Ohio can also make its first NCAA appearance in 20 years.

“I don’t know if you ever know how quickly things are going to happen, but I took the job with the anticipation that we could be pretty good,” said Boldon, who took over an OU team that went 6-23 in 2012-13. “I thought they had the resources in place to be successful. How long that’s going to take is not something you can ever predict.”

Boldon, a Louisville High graduate who played at Walsh University, was hired at YSU following the 2009-10 season, when the Penguins went 0-30. After going 16-44 over the first two years, he broke through in his third, leading the Penguins to a 23-10 record. It was YSU’s best season since advancing to the NCAA tournament in 2000.

The Penguins have continued that success that past two years under John Barnes, who led YSU to a 21-10 record and its third straight berth in the Horizon League tournament semifinals.

“I think John has done a great job,” said Boldon, who signed a five-year extension with OU on Wednesday. “He’s taken it and gone a little farther than we did. Offensively, they’ve had some of the best numbers they’ve ever had.

“It was a good hire when it happened and I’ve been pulling for them. It’s exciting to watch those kids win and succeed and I’m happy for the fans in Youngstown. They went through some pretty lean years and never gave up on the university.”

Of the 13 players on YSU’s roster, just five were recruited by Boldon: senior Latisha Walker, juniors Ashley Lawson and Janae Jackson and sophomores Jenna Hirsch and Kelsea Newman. Senior Heidi Schlegel was a Cindy Martin recruit but spent her first three years with Boldon.

“Obviously the kids we recruited are still leaving the program but we spent a lot of time working with those players and a lot of time building relationships with those players,” he said. “I know the staff cared very much about their success.”

Schlegel has had the best seasons of her career under Barnes, while Boldon built his best YSU teams around Brandi Brown, another Martin recruit.

“When taking over a team — and John did it too — you embrace the players that are there as your own,” Boldon said. “John didn’t say, ‘I didn’t recruit these kids, so I’m not going to try to get Heidi any touches around the paint.’

“He decided she would be more effective around the low block area and found ways to make the most of her skill set, similar to what we did with Brandi. Brandi was a different player when she got there from when she left. You just take a look at what you have and use it. But no matter how you slice it, Brandi is good and Heidi is good. You get good players the basketball.”

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