Missouri hires Pingeton to rebuild

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Missouri hired Robin Pingeton of Illinois State as its new women's basketball coach, pledging to spend more money in hopes of turning around a struggling program in the talent-rich Big 12.

The former Iowa State assistant was introduced by athletic director Mike Alden at a Thursday morning news conference. She has a 5-year contract with a base salary of $300,000 and the chance to earn up to $600,000 with incentives.

That's a $100,000 increase from former coach Cindy Stein's base salary, and nearly twice as much as Stein's total pay package.

Alden said Missouri is committed to narrowing the spending gap with other conference teams. Missouri consistently spends less on its women's program than nearly every other Big 12 school, federal Education Department records show.

"It's important to be financially competitive," he said.

Pingeton, 41, had a 144-81 record at the Missouri Valley Conference school, averaging 27 wins the past three seasons. She was twice named MVC coach of the year and led the Redbirds to two NCAA tournaments and three Women's NIT appearances in seven years.

She previously spent three years as Bill Fennelly's assistant at Iowa State and began her career as head coach at her alma mater St. Ambrose, an NAIA school in Davenport, Iowa.

Pingeton called the Missouri job "a gold mine." She said the team will run a fan-friendly motion offense and pressure defense -- a style of play she and Alden hope will elevate Missouri from the bottom in average league attendance.

Missouri averaged fewer than 2,000 fans in 15,061-seat Mizzou Arena, which the athletic department considers one of the country's finest campus gyms.

"It's going to be a journey," Pingeton said. "But we are going to get some amazing things done."

Calling herself "a Christian who happens to be a coach," Pingeton was accompanied by her husband and 3-year-old son. An aunt and uncle who have lived in Columbia for nearly 50 years sat proudly in the audience.

She emphasized the theme of family throughout her remarks, noting that the three assistants who will follow from Illinois State are each married with children.

The audience included boosters, Chancellor Brady Deaton, men's basketball coach Mike Anderson and several of the Tigers' 10 returning players. Pingeton met with her new squad Wednesday night.

Freshman guard Sydney Crafton said the team is eager for a fresh start. Under Stein, Missouri advanced to three NCAA tournaments in 12 years, but finished 10th or worse in the Big 12 the past three seasons.

"I feel like I could trust her," Crafton said. "And we like to run motion."

Missouri has two scholarships available for next season. Pingeton said it is too soon to say how, or if, she plans to fill those spots.

According to Alden, spending more money on women's basketball was a condition of Pingeton's hiring. He said that athletics administrators, like players, need to be "coachable."

"Administratively, in order to be supportive of your coaching staff...you want to try to deliver those things that they believe are necessary," he said.