I was a bit surprised when I saw former North Carolina All-American Ashley Prange, rumored to be interested in replacing the retiring Sally Austin as the Tar Heel women's coach at season's end, in attendance last week at the UCF Challenge near Orlando. Coincidence? Perhaps, although given how far away Red Tail GC seemed like it was from civilization, I don't think she just happened to be in the neighborhood.
If she was there to help in any last minute lobbying for the job, her efforts went for naught. North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour announced today that veteran coach__Jan Mann had been selected for the position__ and will take over the program officially July 1.
Mann had served as the women's coach at UNC Wilmington from 1994 to 2002 before becoming the first coach for the newly created Virginia women's program. In four seasons in Charlottesville, her teams went to NCAA regionals three times and to the NCAA Championship in 2005.
"Jan is a proven head coach who did an outstanding job at building a fine program of student-athletes at Virginia and, before that, UNC Wilmington," Baddour said. "She has tremendous respect among her peers for her leadership ability and for her contribution to women's golf."
The choice of Mann is a surprise only in that when she stepped down from the UVa program in 2007 she appeared excited to get to spend more time with her four grandchildren, something that had become more and more of a challenge as the rigors of recruiting and overseeing a program increased. Apparently Chapel Hill's proximity to family and friends made this coaching job, in particular, appealing.
The irony of Mann being picked as the third person to coach the UNC women's golf team (succeeding Dot Gunnells, who coached from 1975 to 1993, and Austin) is that the woman who replaced her when she stepped down at Virginia, Kim Lewellen, is a former UNC player who many suspected might be lured back to Chapel Hill. To protect against losing their new coach, UVa athletic department officials recently signed Lewellen to a multi-year contract extension.