Lady Jaguars coach reassigned

Mere minutes after Augusta State's latest defeat, athletic director Clint Bryant called head women's basketball coach Tes Sobomehin into his office for the final time.

He had seen enough.

Bryant removed Sobomehin from her position Thursday after the Lady Jaguars' 61-45 loss to West Georgia at Christenberry Fieldhouse.

Bryant gave her an offer to remain with the university in an unspecified capacity for the remainder of the school year. Sobomehin, reached by cell phone late Thursday night, said she has not officially accepted his offer.

Bryant, who led the Augusta State men's basketball team at the Division I and II levels from 1988-97, will assume the position on an interim basis. He will have a meeting with the Lady Jaguars this morning before they leave school for the Christmas break.

"It's never an ideal time to make a change in the middle of the year, but we felt it was the most opportune time being that we're heading into break," Bryant said. "I think the most important thing is 'Where do we go from here?'

"I'm not concerned about where we've been or where we're at now but where we're going. We've got to get our swagger back."

Sobomehin, who was hired 18 months ago, lost 32 of 38 games -- the same amount of defeats Augusta State men's coach Dip Metress has suffered since November 2005.

After an initial 5-23 campaign, Sobomehin went 1-9 this season.

"I hope the program keeps moving in a positive direction," she said. "I love my players. I worked very hard. I don't have any regrets."

After sifting through 165 applications, Augusta State's search committee recommended Sobomehin for the job last year after Greg Wilson stepped down as head coach after nine seasons. He led the Lady Jaguars to their first Division II Elite Eight in 2004, then a share of the Peach Belt Conference regular season title and to the second round of the Division II Tournament in 2008. Wilson left to become director of the Greater Augusta Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Three months later, Augusta State introduced Sobomehin as its next head coach. Despite Sobomehin's 15-60 record at Division III Kalamazoo College, Bryant said then, and he said Thursday night, she was highly recommended.

"She had some very strong people supporting her, and they spoke very highly of her," Bryant said. "When you go through any search process you're looking for a fit. Her enthusiasm and really wanting to be here and so forth, we thought at that point in time that was the right move to make.

"It's like when you're coaching. Do you call timeout or not call timeout? Do you call a full-court press or get back in a zone? Sometimes, it's something you feel in your gut that you take a chance on. Our search committee, myself and our president, we made that decision. I'm not going to go back and say it was the wrong decision. It was just a situation that didn't work out."

Bryant was not specific about the reason for Sobomehin's removal. He said it was the general direction of the program that concerned him.

"She worked really hard," Bryant said. "She put in the hours. She put in the time. It was just a number of things as we looked at the overall direction of the program."

Sobomehin inherited five of the top six scorers from a squad that went 20-10 the previous season. But internal strife soon torpedoed her initial campaign.

She suspended and ultimately dismissed senior center Sherika Parker from the team for disciplinary reasons. Sobomehin suspended seven players, including leading scorer and rebounder Nicole Mealing, that year. Mealing was dismissed in February after getting into a verbal altercation with her coach.

After a 3-3 start, Sobomehin lost 20 of the next 22 games to close out the season. The Lady Jaguars became the first Peach Belt squad to fall from first to worst in consecutive seasons. That season's team also lost 20 or more games in a season for the first time in program history.

The defining moment of Sobomehin's first year came in the first round of the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. Augusta State had a chance to send its game with Columbus State into overtime. With eight seconds remaining, Sobomehin called a play for Eboni Davis, who hit seven 3-pointers in the contest. Davis was blanketed in the corner. Guard Brittany Jarrard, who picked up her dribble, passed to an open Asha Gwynn at the free-throw line. She mistakenly shot and missed from 15 feet when the Lady Jaguars needed a 3-pointer.

Jarrard said after that season-ending defeat the team had a difficult time switching from the style of Wilson, who compiled a 140-119 at Augusta State.

"It's a big adjustment to go from an older coach to a new coach," Jarrard said. "I think it's just the way we adjusted. That's with everything. On the court, we never adjusted well."

Sobomehin brought in 11 players this season, but the results haven't changed. The Lady Jaguars are last in the Peach Belt in scoring defense, blocked shots and turnovers.

Bryant said Augusta State must start giving consistent effort. His first practice with the team will be Dec. 26.

"It all starts on the practice floor. You will play the way you practice," he said. "We're not going to all of a sudden go from the outhouse to the penthouse in a couple of weeks. I think this is journey and not a destination."

The 55-year-old Bryant said his wife and two daughters were supportive of his interim gig. He was the one who was originally unsure about taking the reins.

"If you'd have told me a year ago, six months ago, three months ago I'd be back in coaching, I'd have told you you would've had a hole in your head," he said. "It's not something I'd expect I'd do again."

Bryant said he will not only be involved in coaching but also in recruiting players for next season's team.

"I'm all in," Bryant said. "I'm not doing this to bide some time just to get through a difficult time."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com

TES SOBOMEHIN'S COACHING CAREER

After 18 months on the job, Tes Sobomehin was relieved of her duties as Augusta State women's basketball coach Thursday by athletic director Clint Bryant. Here's a look at her coaching performance:

- Kalamazoo College (2005-08): 15-60

- Augusta State (2008-09): 6-32

- Overall (six seasons): 21-92

MORE ONLINE

Read staff writer Chris Gay's blog on Augusta State's recent coaching change at blogs.augusta.com.