The Vanderbilt Women’s Basketball program has attempted to recapture their winning ways of the early 90’s during the Jim Foster era which included a Final Four, with the hire of former highly successful WNBA Coach Stephanie White with the Indiana Fever.
White was 68-37 with a WNBA Finals appearance in two seasons at the pro level.
However, the transition for White has not been as smooth as one would hope. Vandy’s women’s program has experienced a drop in average attendance in six consecutive seasons. Five were under former head coach Melanie Balcomb and one under Stephanie White, as she is just past the halfway point of her second season at the helm.
The attendance hit a program low 2,846 during White’s first season on campus, the lowest since 2001.
The Commodores (5-14, 1-4 SEC) have showed recent signs of life, but have been struggling mightily for long stretches this season despite a Jan. 15 win over Kentucky for their first SEC win. White has won just 19 games combined thus far in two seasons as head coach. Additionally, Vanderbilt has not qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 2013.
The roster is supplied with talent, as Sophomores Kayla Overbeck and Erin Whalen were on the 2016 SEC All-Freshman team. Overbeck has been hampered with injuries for much of the season. Rachel Bell, and former 5-star recruit Christa Reed flank 5-star freshman forward Autumn Newby, and solid freshman guard Chelsie Hall. Former 5-star recruit Lealea Carter has been limited with injury through her sophomore season.
The season is littered with losses, but the most telling is a 37-point home loss to cross-town foe Belmont, the Bruins first win against the Commodores in nine tries.
But perhaps members of the team kneeling before the national anthem prior to their exhibition contest against Marian, received more attention nationally than what the Commodores have done on the court.
Former Vanderbilt Head Coach Kevin Stallings was politely shown the door, resulting in Stallings taking the Pittsburgh Head Coach job. However, White is under less pressure, being a women’s head coach of a program that is overshadowed by the Men’s program.
With a declining attendance numbers, White might have drove away some of the Vanderbilt women’s basketball faithful even more so with an attempt of peaceful protest addressing a real problem in the country, police brutality–however, winning cures everything.
If you build it, they will come. The clock is ticking for White, who has to win now in order to get back to the winning standard at Vanderbilt, and silence her critics.
White lacks a fully healthy roster, but upcoming year number three will provide White with more of her recruits and a fully healthy roster. Everyone loves a winner, and the Vanderbilt faithful are itching for one.