During Ardie McInelly’s nine seasons as head coach of the Air Force Academy women’s basketball team, she won 12 Mountain West Conference games. At some point long before Monday, it should have been obvious she was not going to turn around the program.
Granted, she had one of the tougher jobs in Division I basketball, men’s or women’s.
But she was able to survive for so long because there were no expectations for the program. Well, I take that back. Athletic director Hans Mueh seemed to expect the program to lose almost every game.
Let’s look at the Army football program, which has struggled for years. From 2000-2009, the Black Knights won 20 games and lost 82.
The program also went through five coaches during that tumble.
The wins weren’t there, but the expectations remained. The leaders of Army’s athletic program were always searching for the right man to revive the program.
And if you don’t search, you never find what you want and what you need.
McInelly was a great hire. There was reason to believe she could deliver victories to a sagging program.
She turned out not to be the coach this program needed. And it shouldn’t have taken nine seasons to close the door on the Ardie era.
At one of her final press conferences, McInelly praised Mueh, the man she called “my boss” and thanked leaders of the AFA athletic department for their understanding of her plight.
“They understand the difficulty,” she said. “They understand the setbacks. They do understand.”
They understood far too well.
McInelly gave her best and she could very well succeed at another coaching destination.
But her departure offers a fresh chance for female basketball players at the academy.
Maybe now expectations will return.
Check out Jake Schaller’s AFA blog: