A decade of LSU women’s basketball under Nikki Fargas has come and gone. And now she, too, is gone, reportedly in negotiation to be president of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces franchise.
Normally when a coach departs a program for somewhere else, the feeling among the fan base left behind is one of disappointment and betrayal. This time, I don’t sense that the fan base will shed many tears as Fargas packs her belongings and her 10 years of memories.
If anything, it feels like Fargas' departure is a couple years too late.
This wouldn’t be the sentiment if LSU had, pardon the pun, come up aces more often over the past 10 years.
Instead, there were a lot of lemons. Too many lemons.
To begin with, the ultra-successful level the Tigers once occupied left town in 2007, when former LSU player and coach Pokey Chatman resigned amid reports of inappropriate conduct with former players. That would have been tough for anyone to recapture.
Even after Chatman exited shockingly on the eve of that year’s NCAA tournament, LSU’s program still had enough momentum and talent to reach the Final Four under interim coach Bob Starkey, beating mighty UConn in the process. The following year, the Tigers came achingly close to the national championship game under Van Chancellor, losing to Tennessee on a putback at the buzzer in the national semifinals.
Nikki Fargas, LSU’s women’s basketball coach for the past decade, is leaving the program, opening the door for the school to make a blockbuste…
Fargas took LSU to six NCAA tournaments in her first seven seasons, including a pair of trips to the Sweet 16, both times after the Tigers advanced from first- and second-round games on their home floor. But never anything approaching LSU’s five consecutive Final Fours from 2004-08.
Only two of Fargas' final six teams made the NCAA tournament, losing in the first round both times, though LSU’s 20-10 team in 2020 would have made that year’s NCAA tournament had it not been canceled.
On balance, though, LSU has definitely been a program in decline in recent years, going just 9-13 this season for the second losing record under Fargas. Her 10-year total of 177-129 (.578) was the definition of mediocrity.
It will be easy to look back and say that Fargas was a bad hire. No one was saying that when former athletic director Joe Alleva brought her in from UCLA (where she was 72-26 in three seasons) in 2011 to replace Chancellor. Fargas had the pedigree, having played and coached for the great Pat Summitt and also having worked under the respected Debbie Ryan at Virginia. She had charisma and was telegenic. Surely, it seemed, recruits would flock to play under Fargas at LSU.
Perhaps that is what she thought as well, because while Fargas was a technically exceptional X-and-O coach, developing players like LaSondra Barrett and Theresa Plaisance into All-SEC-caliber talents, she never excelled on the recruiting trail. Even many of the top players she did bring in, like Krystal Forthan, Danielle Ballard and Chloe Jackson, didn’t stay at LSU as long as they could or should have.
The result was a slow sinking into obscurity as programs like South Carolina, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Arkansas passed LSU by.
What is the next step for LSU? Athletic director Scott Woodward has two distinct choices before him.
One is to try to identify a young up-and-coming coach — similar to who Fargas was in 2011 when she was hired — who will be glad to come to LSU for a reasonable price. The other is for Woodward to scrape together his nickels and dimes in these challenging financial times and to try to make a moonshot of a hire. In that case, he would have to decide, like predecessors such as Bob Brodhead and Skip Bertman, that he wants LSU to be excellent in every sport, no matter the cost.
This will be Woodward’s first attempt at a major coaching hire at LSU. He built his reputation on blockbuster hires at Washington and Texas A&M, luring seemingly hard-to-get coaches to those schools. He got Chris Petersen to go to Washington when everyone said it would take a crowbar to pry him out of Boise State. He got Jimbo Fisher to leave Florida State for Texas A&M when that seemed an unlikely acquisition as well.
LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Fargas is in negotiations to become Las Vegas Aces president, a person familiar with the discussions told T…
Whoever LSU hires will set the bar of expectations for women’s basketball. Does Woodward want someone who will return LSU to the program’s glory days of Seimone Augustus and Sue Gunter, or does he want for LSU to simply be somewhat better?
Frankly, the bar right now is not very high. Though Fargas’ program was never touched by scandal, as was the case with Chatman or LSU’s current Title IX problems, improving the on-court product to some degree might not require a huge amount of heavy lifting.
The question now is about how good LSU wants to be in women’s basketball. It has been, and should be, better than it has been during the Fargas decade.