Meet new Houston Cougars' women's basketball coach Todd Buchanan. He's an excitable guy. He talks fast, in run-on sentences. He goes off on tangents, but always returns to the point of the question. He's got a tight handshake, and he calls you by your first name.
He's the kid in the candy store who can't decide what to buy, but knows that whatever he does get, it will be the absolute right choice. Todd Buchanan's got the chance of his lifetime, and he knows it. And he just can't wait to start coaching.
Cougar athletic director Mack Rhoades didn't set out to hire a new women's basketball coach. If there was one sport, besides football, in which there was no need for a new coach, then it was UH women's basketball.
Head coach Joe Curl, Buchanan's prior boss, was entrenched in his job, loved by his players, the administration, and the alumni. In 12 seasons, Curl compiled a 193-167 record and took the Lady Cougars to five postseason appearances. But Curl missed five games in the season with heart problems, and he missed the team's NIT appearance after suffering chest pain. So after the season, deciding his health was of prime importance, Curl stepped down.
Enter his former pupil, Buchanan.
"It's been somewhat bittersweet because obviously Coach and I worked -- he gave me the opportunity 10 years ago to come to the University of Houston and be in the city of Houston, and I'll always, always, have a tremendous amount of respect, and truly I'm very appreciative of the opportunity he gave me," Buchanan told Hair Balls. "I can honestly say that I probably wouldn't be here, I probably wouldn't be sitting here today as the head coach, if he hadn't have given me that opportunity when he did."
Buchanan originally came to the Cougars as Curl's assistant from 2000-2005, and from there he got the chance to be head coach at HBU, where his record in five years was 80-68. Buchanan was the man in charge as HBU moved from the NAIA to the NCAA. Now he finds himself returning to UH as the school attempts to transition not only from the Curl era, but also into the major leagues of college sports.
"It feels tremendous [to be back]," Buchanan said. "I've not ever been around the energy, the vision this administration has. Obviously Chancellor Khator is incredible with the Tier One and understanding how important athletics is. She obviously understands that, gets that, from the marketability standpoint of a Tier One, and from a major city university. Obviously Mack Rhoades gets it. And his leadership, his work ethic, his tirelessness of fundraising and shaking hands and those kind of things, obviously putting together a star-studded effect with the staff that he's surrounded himself with...the coaches here, the other administrators. It's been phenomenal. I've not ever, ever felt or seen the excitement and the energy that I feel that the university has going internally and externally as it does now."
Buchanan inherits a Curl squad full of players that helped the team make the Women's NIT last season. And though he can't talk specifics about recruiting, he's been able to keep some of the players that Curl had already recruited to join the team for this upcoming season, and he's been able to add Michelle White to the list of incoming players.
"Recruiting has been phenomenal," he said. "Obviously I can't get into specifics, but we did sign three kids previously to me coming, and we're really, really excited. Mae Woods is coming from British Columbia -- 6-5 post player. Got Allie Henderson -- 6-2, kind of a combo, but more of a post player. Very athletic, very long. I'm really, really excited about the kids who are coming. Brianna Williams, the kid coming from Memphis, is very athletic.
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"I think everyone of those kids, along with Michelle White who we signed within my first week of being on the job, from Trinity Valley Junior College, 5-8/5-9 very versatile combo guard. I really think she'll bring a lot of scoring ability, slasher. Very athletic. Really brings a lot of depth to our guard corps, which obviously is coming back with the likes of Porsche [Landry], Brittney Scott, and the others. I'm extremely, extremely excited about the type of kids that now are excited about us, which has been phenomenal."
The hard part for Buchanan, right now, is that NCAA rules prevent him from actually being allowed to coach his players. He understands the rules. But being new to the job, and to the players, he's finding it really difficult not actually being able to do that whole coaching part of his job.
"The old cliché, the old saying's always been basketball players are made in the summer. They take that out of our hands, which is unfortunate," he said. "It's certainly unfortunate in the scenario of how [men's basketball] Coach [James] Dickey and myself have come into the situation. It's phenomenally exciting that we're here, but then, all of sudden -- it's kind of like the kid in the candy store, you can look at it, but you can't touch it and you can't have the candy bar. Anyway, we're excited. We'll get through it."
If you meet Todd Buchanan, then you can't help but know that he will, indeed, get through it. And if you meet Todd Buchanan, you'll get hit with a burst of energy, enthusiasm and vision like you've probably never seen before.