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Foster seeks coaching spot after Ohio State firing

Tuesday - 4/16/2013, 5:19pm  ET

FILE - In this March 8, 2013, file photo, Ohio State head coach Jim Foster reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Penn State in the Big Ten Conference women's tournament in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Foster, who won 783 games and will be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in June, says he's looking into the possibility of returning as a college head coach for a 36th season after being fired by Ohio State. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

RUSTY MILLER
AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- For the first time in years, Jim Foster had to update his resume.

When he looked it over after being fired for the first time in his life, he didn't feel as if it came out too badly.

"As I looked at it, there was nothing that made me cringe," he said.

It's quite a document. It includes 783 victories, a .718 winning percentage, a spotless reputation and his induction this June into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

He was jettisoned at Ohio State -- the university said it was a mutual decision -- last month despite a 279-82 record in his 11 seasons, 10 trips to the NCAA tournament, four Big Ten coach of the year awards and a record six consecutive conference titles (2005-2010).

Foster did not feel sorry for himself after the abrupt firing. Instead, he joked about the nice things others said about him to make him feel better.

"Between the Hall of Fame and being fired in the same year, you challenge your friends' ability to transfer their feelings into print," the 64-year-old Foster said of the letters, texts and other messages he's gotten from peers, players and assistants. "Some of them have been challenged to the point where we sort of made a decision to cancel the funeral -- there's nothing left to say."

Spending time with his wife, Donna, at their vacation condo in Arizona, he still isn't ready to get out of coaching.

"It's certainly on the front burner as we speak," he said, declining to mention details. "I still have as much passion and energy as I ever have."

Ohio State fired him after an 18-13 season -- his first with fewer than 20 wins and without an NCAA tournament invitation at the school. Miechelle Willis, the associate athletic director who oversees the women's program, pointed to the quick knockout Foster's teams frequently suffered in the NCAA tournament.

"There has been some discussion with the postseason production, or lack thereof," she said when the decision was announced on March 19.

Foster's teams set an Ohio State record by reaching the NCAA tournament 10 years in a row before this past season. Despite being nationally ranked for most of a decade and in the top 10 for five of those years, the Buckeyes never advanced beyond the round of 16.

Despite losing his top two players to graduation from this year's team (Tayler Hill, drafted No. 4 by the WNBA's Washington Mystics on Monday, along with defensive whiz Amber Stokes), Foster had high hopes for next season.

"I was really looking forward to coaching this team next year because I thought we'd really found a key with Raven (Ferguson) and a four-guards lineup," he said. "And we had a junior-college kid who had verbaled to us and we'd had a European player that really wanted to come. So we were really enthusiastic about this year. And that enthusiasm hasn't waned."

Instead of moving into a new home that he and his wife are building in Columbus, Foster will put it on the market and move elsewhere.

If it crossed his mind to simply retire and enjoy the fruits of his 35-year head-coaching career, the words of former players and assistants such as Connecticut's Geno Auriemma swayed him to go with his heart.

"The thing that keeps occurring is former players in a lot of different ways and with a lot of different words wanting me to continue doing what I do," he said. "That weighs heavily in the thought process."

In spite of all the victories, when asked to pinpoint a highlight of his time at Ohio State, Foster brought up something that had little to do with what took place on the court.

"We had a couple of special admits. We sort of got an opportunity to get some people in who might not necessarily have gotten into school," he said. "The day that they graduated sort of justified the trust that the admission folks had in us and helped you to realize ... the first one to graduate in a family is a big deal, the first one in the family to go to college is a big deal."

He did not discount the big victories, however, on his list of favorite memories.

"And, certainly, cutting down nets," he said. "Championship teams, they have a bond."

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Rusty Miller can be reached at http://twitter.com/rustymillerap


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