WILLIAMSBURG — Ed Swanson and William and Mary sought the right fit, Swanson a challenge in a setting compatible with his ideals, the school a coach capable of breathing life into its stagnant women's basketball program without compromising core values.
Both believe they succeeded, as Swanson was introduced Tuesday as the Tribe's next coach.
"Obviously, the proof is in the pudding," W&M athletic director Terry Driscoll said, "but I don't know if we could start with a better coach for the position right now. I really don't. That was our conclusion as a committee, that this guy was just a really great fit."
Swanson, 47, steps up a competitive level from Sacred Heart University and the Northeast Conference, to a school that he's admired from afar and respected further during the search process.
William and Mary gets an accomplished head coach and program builder, a man whose credentials separated themselves from a sizable and qualified candidate pool.
Swanson's resume was so stellar that it prompted the question: Why?
He has been head coach at Sacred Heart in Fairfield, Conn., his alma mater, for the past 23 years. He essentially built the program and shepherded it into Division I in 1999, where it has become an NEC power.
Swanson's teams have won more than 400 games and routinely made postseason appearances, including three trips to the NCAA tournament in the past eight years. He is a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.
Why would a coach give up the success and comfort of a program he built, for a second-division Colonial Athletic Association program that's logged just five winning records in 29 years in Division I?
Driscoll said that when he asked why, Swanson articulated his reasons and assured him at every step of the search process.
"I wouldn't leave Sacred Heart after 23 years if I didn't think this was the right fit for me, at the right time in my career," Swanson said Tuesday. "It's important to me that I don't sacrifice what I believe in college athletics. I believe in recruiting motivated student-athletes, so it was important to me that I found a place for my next job that I had motivated student-athletes. I would not sacrifice that. William and Mary actually fit that.
"I wouldn't leave a place if I didn't think I had the opportunity to win. I think William and Mary is a sleeping giant right now in the world of women's basketball. I think I can transition my style of play to these players."
Swanson received a five-year contract that will pay him a base salary of $157,000 annually, Driscoll said. His salary and W&M's women's basketball budget are both bumps from what he had at Sacred Heart, though money wasn't the deciding factor.
Swanson said that his extended family played a part in his initial interest in William and Mary. Though he had never set foot on campus until his interview, he said that his sister-in-law, two nieces and one of the niece's fiance' all graduated from W&M.
He appreciated the passion with which they spoke about the school. When the coaching job came open, he asked them to write their feelings as he weighed his own interest.
"They should be writing for the admissions catalog," he said, "because it really (conveyed) all the things that I was looking for in my next move."
Swanson valued Driscoll's openness and the deliberate search process, which allowed him to process information and not decide hastily. Driscoll offered the job last Thursday and gave Swanson 24 hours to consider it.
"Every question has been answered," Driscoll said. "He's been very, very comfortable with everything. I'm really very excited about the opportunity to have someone like this walk into our basketball program."
Swanson doesn't have a staff assembled, but has a list of coaches he will approach. He wants at least one assistant knowledgeable about the state of Virginia, which he said will be the program's primary recruiting focus.
He also wants an assistant with extensive national ties, because he believes that William and Mary and its academic reputation have broad appeal. He recruited nationally at Sacred Heart, as well, attracting players from Arizona, California, Colorado and Maryland.
Swanson inherits a roster that lost four starters from an 8-22 team. The Tribe returns four players who logged significant minutes last season and has four incoming freshmen signed for next season. He is familiar with most of the players and after speaking to them, believes that he has a workable foundation.
"I really believe that my style is tied to effort level," Swanson said. "I think the challenge in women's basketball, and men's basketball, it's more about the effort level. I think I have the ability to get kids to play above themselves. That's what I'm hoping I can do here."Copyright © 2015, CT Now