With the 2022 season winding down, non-season news is about to hit us full-on. Perhaps the biggest news of the offseason will be who will be named the first head coach at Clemson. With speculation for various names making the rounds on social media, we thought we’d round up some of the options we think are most likely—as well as some that may go under the radar.
Auburn elevated Ashley Johnston to associate head coach in 2022, the latest step in her meteoric rise up the NCAA coaching ranks. The Alabama alumna has been an assistant at Illinois and Auburn, as well as having a club tenure at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy. Recruiting was part of her slate of duties at Illinois and Auburn, something that should be appealing to Clemson given the ground it needs to make up in that space as its inaugural season is fast approaching. She also brings name recognition and connections throughout the level 10, elite and NCAA worlds.
Garrett and Courtney McCool Griffeth have proven themselves to be some of the most sought-after coaches in NCAA gymnastics. They have elevated programs everywhere they’ve been, from Texas Woman’s to Arkansas to Utah and now LSU. They both have high name recognition—something Clemson should be taking into consideration to bolster fundraising and recruiting—and hiring both of them would almost completely fill out the staff; the Tigers would need to add just one assistant. Of course, there may be competition to hire the pair if one other high profile job in particular opens up this offseason: Both Griffeths’ alma mater is Georgia.
Given Ross’ family connections to Clemson and repeated conveniently timed visits to campus, it’s inevitable that fans would speculate about the Olympic champion as a prospect. It’s easy to imagine the Clemson athletic department being attracted to the publicity that such a decorated athlete would bring to the program, much as Jordyn Wieber has raised Arkansas’ profile and increased its attendance.
Still, it’s important to remember that Ross is still substantially less experienced as a coach than Wieber was when she was hired at Arkansas, and in Ross’ debut season as a volunteer assistant coach, Arkansas’ performance has been unremarkable. It’s reasonable to question whether Ross is ready for a head coach job, but she’s a strong prospect for an assistant coach position nevertheless.
Are we biased toward coaches formerly associated with orange teams? Maybe. Still, the former WCGA Division II assistant coach of the year has been an important part of UC Davis’ resurgent season and also has experience as a big-team recruiting coordinator at Oregon State. Clemson would be a big leap for her, but she has an extremely strong and diverse track record.
In the same vein as Johnston, Spears was an excellent gymnast at Oklahoma and spent time at North Carolina before settling into her current assistant role at Arizona. The GymCats have only improved since she joined the staff. She brings the big name and big-stage experience Clemson needs and has connections to a major club gym—WOGA, where she trained—to the table. Plus, she’s familiar with the soon-to-be ACC after her time with the Tar Heels.
If she’d be willing to step away from her alma mater, Nicole Jones would be an outstanding hire. She has been an instrumental part of the Spartans’ breakout success, managing lineup selection for the team and coaching the stellar floor teams (not to mention designing excellent leos). She was elevated from assistant to associate head coach before the 2018 season. Pulling an alumna away from the only team they’ve known—Jones has never coached elsewhere in the NCAA—is a tall task, but Clemson would be smart to make an effort.
A longtime Florida assistant, Field is responsible for bars and conditioning. He also hails from another orange team, so maybe that bias really is true? Prior to Florida, Field was a Nebraska assistant. The Huskers are known for mentoring top-tier coaches who go on to have long and successful careers. With a resume that includes coaching Bridget Sloan and Alex McMurtry to national titles on bars, Field has the big-time credentials Clemson will be looking for.
California has held onto one of the most talented and underrated coaches in the country in McDonald since 2018. She’s not an assistant who has hopped around the NCAA as much as some others, but she has a wealth of experience coaching club at WOGA, including at the elite level. She also led the TOPs program at Legacy Elite. If the Arizona State alumna could be wooed away from Berkeley, she’d be a well-connected standout, if understated, pick for Clemson’s first head coach.
Bonus: Assistant Coaches We Could See Making the Move
There are a handful of people who seem poised to make a move but aren’t quite ready to take on a Power Five head coaching gig. We rounded up a few who we could see joining the Tigers’ staff.
- Chris Bogantes
- Zaakira Muhammad
- Chris Muras
- Craig Ballard
- Anastasia Halbig
- Andavea Alexander
- Toni-Ann Williams
- Cale Robinson
- Andrew Leis
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Article by the editors of College Gym News
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