Texas introduces Aston as head coach
Former UT assistant was only hopeful interviewed on campus
AUSTIN, Texas -- Former Texas women's basketball assistant Karen Aston is taking over the Longhorns with a mission to turn the program back into a national championship contender.
Aston, the coach at North Texas last season, was introduced at a campus news conference in Austin on Tuesday after a whirlwind courtship in which she was the only candidate interviewed on campus.
And she left no doubt about her expectations:
"I expect to go to the Final Four," she said. "I'm thrilled to be back. My job is to make Texas proud of the women's basketball program."
Aston, 47, succeeds Gail Goestenkors, who resigned March 20 after the Longhorns failed to advance past the first round of the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year.
Aston, who was a Texas assistant from 1998-2006, is just the fourth head coach in program history and got a five-year contract.
Salary details were not immediately released but will be made public and subject to state open records laws. Texas pays its coaches with athletic department revenue, not state money.
Goestenkors was one of the highest-paid coaches in the country and resigned with two years left on a seven-year contract that paid her $1.25 million per year.
In hiring Aston, Texas gets a coach who brings instant credibility in the fertile recruiting grounds of Houston and Dallas where she mined talent for Texas during her previous stint with the Longhorns. She was Texas' recruiting coordinator when Texas made the 2003 Final Four.
She also had two stints as an assistant at Baylor from 1994-1996 and 2006-2007. She left Baylor to be the head coach at Charlotte and spent one season at North Texas. Her career record as a head coach is 101-63.
Her assistant coaching career allowed her to apprentice with three Hall of Fame coaches: Texas' Jody Conradt and Baylor's Kim Mulkey and Sonja Hogg.
Each taught her valuable lessons. Conradt showed her how to run a program and Mulkey how to push players to be their absolute best, Aston said.
"Every time I've made a step, it's been under someone who is in the Hall of Fame. I'd have to be dumb to not have learned something," Aston said.
Texas is desperate to make a return among the nation's elite. Texas proudly wears the label as one of the pioneering programs in women's sports -- the 1985-86 squad was the first women's undefeated national champion -- but hasn't been a championship contender for nearly a decade.
Conradt retired in 2007 after two straight seasons of missing in the NCAA tournament. Goestenkors, who had led Duke to four Final Fours and 10 straights years of reaching the NCAA tournament round of 16, left the Blue Devils program she built to try to revive the dormant Longhorns.
But Goestenkors struggled in a Big 12 that had become arguably the toughest women's conference in the country and some seasons had a hard time just making the NCAA tournament.
Five years ago, Conradt called Goestenkors a perfect fit for the Longhorns. She issued a statement Tuesday supporting Aston as "the right person for Texas."
"She has a proven record, is a great recruiter and a hard worker. She was a very key member of my staff and I have a tremendous about of respect for her," Conradt said.
Texas women's athletic director Chris Plonsky zeroed in on Aston soon after Goestenkors quit. She called Aston to gauge her interest on March 26 and brought her in for two days of meetings with school officials the next day. By Thursday, it was clear Aston was going to get the job.
Aston brings a deep knowledge of the Texas program and the drive to win on the recruiting trials, Plonsky said.
"Sometimes it takes a change to bring you back to your roots," Plonsky said. "Texas was best suited to attract Karen now, if we didn't we'd be playing her soon."
Aston met with the Texas players before her formal introduction and told them they should plan to be in top shape and expect to be pushed hard, Longhorns guard Chelsea Bass said.
"A definite change we're excited about," Bass said. "She expects us to handle our business. She's not going to baby us ... It is intimidating, but I like that factor of it. I think it will be good for our team and our program."
Aston said her players will find playing for her will be fun if they work hard.
"I can be a teddy bear, but they have to earn the right to get there," Aston said.