Drake coach Jennie Baranczyk accepts head coaching job at Oklahoma
As Jennie Baranczyk was leading the Drake women’s basketball team to a run of historic success, offers of new coaching opportunities started rolling in. Baranczyk stayed with the Bulldogs, vowing to leave only if the perfect opportunity arose.
It finally arrived.
Baranczyk, one of the most successful coaches in Drake women’s basketball history, was named the new head coach at the University of Oklahoma on Saturday. The 39-year-old, who coached at Drake for nine seasons, takes over from Sherri Coale, who announced her retirement at the end of the 2020-21 season.
“It is 100% the perfect opportunity,” Baranczyk said in a telephone interview with the Des Moines Register on Saturday. “It’s the perfect fit. But it was definitely not one that I was definitely looking for. I’m not running away from anything, but I’m running to something incredible.”
Baranczyk, a basketball star at Dowling Catholic High School and then with the Iowa Hawkeyes, had carved out a sterling record at Drake. During her time there, Baranczyk compiled a 190-96 record. She also guided the Bulldogs to six consecutive 20-win seasons and to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. A fourth was in the making last season before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the tournament's cancellation.
But Baranczyk's biggest success came during the regular season as she made the Bulldogs a premier powerhouse in the Missouri Valley Conference. She tallied a 123-39 record in MVC play and led the Bulldogs to four regular-season titles and two MVC Tournament titles. Baranczyk, who was hired in April of 2012, also was named the MVC Coach of the Year twice after leading the Bulldogs to perfect 18-0 conference records in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Her .667 winning percentage ranks fifth in the league’s history.
“It’s hard to summarize what she meant to our program and meant to our campus and our community,” Drake Director of Athletics Brian Hardin said. “She’s a values-driven coach who has been a dynamic leader for our program and our department at Drake and certainly here in central Iowa. Her history of developing strong leaders through her program speaks for itself. She is someone that has had strong ties to the community before she came in and made them even stronger.”
Baranczyk’s resume also includes assistant coaching stops at Kansas State, Marquette and Colorado, and her work to turn the Bulldogs into a fast-paced, high scoring offensive machine made her a highly coveted coach whenever openings came up. Baranczyk said she had “plenty of opportunities” over the years but stayed at Drake, where she became a hometown hero. But the chance to coach at Oklahoma in the Big 12 was too much to pass up.
“It’s an opportunity that’s really going to make me grow, and I get to go and implement a new system and a new style and everything else,” Baranczyk said. “It’s going to be really, really fun. It is.”
Baranczyk has big shoes to fill at Oklahoma, replacing Coale, who finished her coaching career with a 513-294 overall record and 253-167 mark in Big 12 play. Coale, a four-time Big 12 Coach of the Year, guided the Sooners to 10 Big 12 championships (six regular season titles and four tournament titles) and 20 postseason appearances, including 19 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
Baranczyk's “track record of overseeing creative and effective offenses and producing high win totals, conference championships and postseason appearances during her time at Drake certainly appealed to our search committee as it evaluated the very competitive candidate pool,” Oklahoma Vice President and AD Joe Castiglione said in a statement. “But her mastery of the head coaching role expands far beyond the court and it’s clear that her personal and professional values align with us.”
Leaving Iowa wasn’t easy for Baranczyk, who is married and has three children.
“It’s a tougher decision but it’s also one where it’s Oklahoma and it’s a pretty awesome opportunity,” Baranczyk said. “I’m really thrilled about it too.”
Allison Pohlman, who worked as an assistant for Baranczyk at Drake, was named the interim head coach while Hardin looks for a replacement. Hardin said he’s looking for a coach who can develop players on and off the court. Selling Drake, after the success that Baranczyk had, shouldn’t be difficult, he said.
“I think that when you’re looking at it, I’m really bullish on what this job is,” Hardin said..
Tommy Birch, the Register's sports enterprise and features reporter, has been working at the newspaper since 2008. He's the 2018 and 2020 Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Reach him at email@example.com or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.