Wright State AD: Losing another successful coach to bigger program means ‘we’re doing our job’

Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather. WSU Athletics photo
Wright State coach Katrina Merriweather. WSU Athletics photo

Women’s basketball coach Katrina Merriweather taking over at Memphis after five successful years leading Raiders

FAIRBORN — Although it may mean more work for him, Wright State athletic director Bob Grant is glad his program is in the position it’s in — where bigger schools swoop in and snag his successful coaches.

But it’s still bittersweet for him when the good ones go.

“It’s something that happens with regularity with us, and that’s probably not a bad thing,” he said. “Our student-athletes have done such great things, led by great coaches. You’ve seen it in baseball multiple times now.

“I’ve always said you can have two kinds of coaches: the kind nobody wants and the kind other people covet. If we’re doing our job, we’ve got the latter.”

Women’s basketball coach Katrina Merriweather is the latest to move on to the next challenge, officially accepting the Memphis job Monday.

She led the Raiders to their first NCAA tourney win last week in their third appearance, racking up 113-47 record in five years while being named Horizon League Coach of the Year three times.

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Merriweather arrived at Wright State in 2010 as an assistant to Mike Bradbury (who left for New Mexico), and she’s had a huge hand in helping the Raiders reach new heights.

She’s also inheriting a major rebuilding job.

Memphis coach Melissa McFerrin abruptly retired last month, and her team went 4-15.

Bob Grant, Wright State Athletic Director
Bob Grant, Wright State Athletic Director

The Tigers haven’t finished better than 10th in the American Athletic Conference in the past three years and haven’t had a winning record since 2015-16.

“She came with Mike Bradbury 11 years ago. Before that, Wright State basketball was largely irrelevant. No success at all. But now we’re on a heckuva run, and it’s our job to keep that going,” Grant said.

“She’s first class all the way. She’s a great mentor. She fits in with our culture really well. I think she’ll do wonderful things at Memphis. The sky’s the limit for her.”

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The Raiders weren’t competitive in their first two NCAA trips (in 2014 and ’19), but Merriweather orchestrated a 66-62 upset of fourth-seeded Arkansas last week.

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to lead the women’s basketball program at the University of Memphis,” Merriweather said in a statement release by the school.

“This program has experienced high levels of success in the classroom and on the court, and the young women have become incredible members of society. I am looking forward to building on the tradition of excellence.”

The Raiders became the first team to beat a top-four seed in the NCAA first round since 2012 and only the seventh team to ever do it.

That certainly got athletic director Laird Veatch’s attention — along with Merriweather’s three league regular-season titles and two tourney crowns.

“Coach Merriweather is a proven winner. … She is an outstanding coach, is a great recruiter and runs a first-class overall program. We are so excited to welcome Katrina to the Memphis family,” Veatch said in a statement.

Wright State has stayed in house for its last three hires in baseball after head coaches left. That’s worked out well. But Grant’s mission is to find the best person for the job.

“There’s always a short list (of candidates). I learned years ago you’d better have it in hand and keep it pretty dusted off — especially when you have a lot of programs like ours and the level their achieving at now,” he said. “We’ll go through a process like we always do. You never get used to it. It’s never fun. But you get comfortable with what you’ve done in the past.”

He added: “This is not gloom and doom for Wright State. We all loved Trina and want what’s best for her. But we’re all excited to see her succeed there and keep the Wright State tree growing, which I think is a really cool thing.”

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