COLUMBUS — Jim Foster, who won 783 games at Saint Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, and the last 11 years at Ohio State, will not return as women’s basketball head coach next season, Ohio State announced on Tuesday.
Miechelle Willis, the Ohio State executive associate athletic director who oversees the program, said it was a mutual decision.
“There has been some discussion with the postseason production, or lack thereof,” she said when asked the reasons behind the move.
The end came after the first year he did not win 20 games with the Buckeyes nor lead the team to the NCAA tournament since taking over a losing program in 2002.
The statement issued by Ohio State did not specify if Foster had been fired or was retiring. He compiled a record of 279-82 (.722) in his tenure with the Buckeyes, departing as the program’s winningest coach in victories and percentage.
Foster, reached by phone by the Associated Press, declined to comment. Asked if he was leaving the program voluntarily, the 64-year-old Foster repeated that he had nothing to say.
The statement issued by Ohio State did not contain any quotes from Foster, but did include athletic director Gene Smith and Willis speaking about Foster’s impact on the program.
“Jim Foster has meant so much to so many over his career,” Smith said.
Smith did not immediately respond to a request to clarify whether Foster had been fired or had voluntarily stepped aside.
This season, Foster’s team went 18-13 and tied for eighth in the Big Ten with a 7-9 mark. Passed over by the NCAA even though Ohio State hosts NCAA first- and second-round games this weekend, the Buckeyes declined to accept an offer to play in the WNIT.
Foster recruited eight consecutive Big Ten players of the year, from three-time winner Jessica Davenport (2005-07), through the only such four-time Big Ten honoree (of either gender) Jantel Lavender (2008-11), and 2012 winner Samantha Prahalis.
Ohio State won a Big Ten-record six consecutive conference regular-season titles under Foster (2005-10), four Big Ten tournament championships, and made it to a school-record 10 NCAA tournaments in a row until this season. The Buckeyes struggled in January, winning just one of eight conference games, several of the losses coming while starting guard Amber Stokes — selected as the Big Ten’s top defensive player last season — was sidelined with a knee injury.
Asked if Foster had left voluntarily, Willis said, “It’s safe to say that there was a mutual agreement between both Jim and Ohio State that it was time for new leadership for our program.”
Foster’s Ohio State teams were nationally ranked for much of the past decade. The 2009-10 team, led by Lavender, set a program record with 31 wins.
He was selected as the Big Ten’s coach of the year four times. He is also one of only two coaches — men’s or women’s at any level — to win at least 200 games at three different schools.
But despite so much success in the regular season, his Ohio State teams frequently were a disappointment in the NCAA tournament. Even though they frequently had good seeds and played close to home, the Buckeyes had a string of early knockouts in the tournament. The Buckeyes were eliminated in the first round of the tournament three times and in the second round four times.
Ohio State made it to the regional semifinals three times under Foster.
“Jim’s been around a long time did a great job at Saint Joseph’s, Vanderbilt, and Ohio State,” North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “Jim’s done a fantastic job he’s been a great ambassador for women’s basketball.”
A native of Philadelphia and a graduate of Temple, Foster served two tours of duty in Vietnam before getting into coaching. He was 248-126 in 13 years at Saint Joseph’s (1978-91), 256-99 in 11 seasons at Vanderbilt (1991-2002) before taking on the Ohio State job. He took over a program that had fallen on hard times, going 14-15 in the final year under fired coach Beth Burns, and turned it into a Big Ten power.