I had more than a few comments and questions sent my way yesterday after the Kupets-Carter hire was announced.
My thought? This is the most remarkable hiring/firing decision of Greg McGarity’s career. For one thing, there’s Kupets-Carter’s resume.
Courtney Kupets-Carter has, quite possibly, the most impressive competition resume of any collegiate gymnast ever, but until she was named the head coach of the most accomplished college program in history, she had not been a full-time coach anywhere at the college level. She has coached at the club level for Oconee Gymnastics and Cheer for one year, and she was a student assistant under Jay Clark in 2010. That’s it. That’s the resume. The rest of Kupets-Carter’s work history consists of broadcasting for the SEC Network and USA Gymnastics, and a stop as a performer at the La Reve show at the Wynn in Las Vegas. (Seriously.)
If you were at least somewhat taken aback by McGarity’s decision to hire a career assistant coach to replace Mark Richt, Kirby Smart’s resume reads like a college Hall of Famer’s compared to that. Those aren’t the qualifications — at least I hope they’re not — of an athletic director’s first choice in finding someone to right the ship of a historically prominent gymnastics program, which is something that Suzanne Yoculan acknowledged at yesterday’s presser.
“I don’t know that anyone that’s at another school who’s a really great head coach wants to come to Georgia, where there’s a dynasty here. They want to create their own,” Yoculan said.
Speaking of Yoculan, there’s the second notable feature of yesterday’s announcement. She’s the first hire of Kupets-Carter’s staff… as a “volunteer” coach. (Insert your McGarity has to appreciate the cost savings crack here. I already did.) Again, Yoculan herself acknowledges how different that is.
… Yoculan believes she is the only former head coach in the country who will be working for no pay as an volunteer assistant. But it’s not a small role she’ll assume. And as anybody who knows anything about Yoculan will tell you, no role she fills is a small.
As a volunteer assistant, the 63-year-old Yoculan will be able to coach in the gym, which is something she’s relishing doing again. She will also be able to call recruits on the phone and she’ll be able to meet with recruits and their parents when they come to campus. Her only limitation is she won’t be able to go on the road recruiting.
“It was all her idea,” Yoculan insisted. “Honestly, I live here, I have plenty of days where I sit around and not do a lot. My primary focus is my family, but we’re going to work it out and work on the schedule together. It will be an unusual arrangement.”
Everyone should have a hobby. But as a way to manage what is perceived as a major college sports program, that seems a bit, well, amateurish. It also begs an obvious question about McGarity’s plan for a replacement after canning his second gymnastics coach in less than a decade.
… The only bigger splash he could have made would have been to hire Yoculan herself as the head coach. He did admit Tuesday that Yoculan was the first call he made when he turned his attention to this coaching search, but he insists it was for nothing more than advice.
“I asked her to help me,” McGarity said. “I asked her to provide me some advice. I ask her for advice a lot. But I wasn’t going to asked that question.”
Yoculan sort of hems and haws around that discussion. She finally admitted that “there was conversation of that,” but it’s not something she seriously considered.
What, no search firm? That is the course of action of a man who is sadly out of options.
Hey, maybe this will all turn out fine. Both Kupets-Carter and Yoculan sound confident about the future, and, as McGarity pointed out yesterday, Yoculan’s background when she was hired by Dooley was that of a local club gymnastics coach. But there’s so much flakiness and out of the box thinking from a man who’s known for an almost complete absence of such an approach that it seems irrational to assume this is all sunshine and roses.
All of which brings me to what makes this decision so remarkable for me. Look who was at yesterday’s presser.
Kupets was introduced at a press conference on Tuesday, also attended by Yoculan, UGA president Jere Morehead, board of regents member Don Leeburn…
Don Effing Leeburn?
With Leeburn’s public blessing, McGarity has all but proclaimed himself to be in formal ass-covering mode. If hiring a 30-year old with no previous collegiate coaching experience works out, fine. If it doesn’t, he’s made sure that he’s got all the right people buying in to his call. He wouldn’t go down alone; in fact, the reality is that he’s insulated himself from going down at all.
It’s a smart way to keep your job. As far as the athletic department goes, though, and excuse me if you’ve heard this before, it’s a helluva way to run a railroad. At least you have to give these people credit for their consistency.
Kirby Smart sure better win big. And soon.