Jim Foster's next stop: Chattanooga

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Chattanooga has hired a future Hall of Famer as its next women's basketball head coach.

The university announced Thursday the hiring of Jim Foster, who will be inducted in less than a month into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. The former St. Joseph's, Vanderbilt and Ohio State coach has a 783-307 record and ranks 11th in NCAA history in career wins. Foster and Rutgers women's coach C. Vivian Stringer are the only men's or women's college basketball coaches to win at least 200 games at three different schools.

Foster, 64, was fired by Ohio State after going 18-13 this past season, the only time in his 11-year tenure with the Buckeyes that they won fewer than 20 games and missed the NCAA tournament. Foster said his former players helped convince him that he shouldn't retire.

"The one common theme was they wanted me to stay coaching," Foster said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "I took that to heart."

Foster replaces Wes Moore, who took over North Carolina State's program last month after making nine NCAA tournament appearances in 15 years at Chattanooga.

The move to a mid-major program represents a return to Foster's roots after spending more than two decades in the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten. Foster will be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on June 8 in Knoxville, Tenn.

"I like the fact that we don't have the support structure that a lot of the big BCS schools have," Foster said. "I think it's a little bit more challenging and in a lot of respects a lot more fun to coach when you're involved a little bit more with the student-athlete. You wear more hats. That's the way it used to be. I'm not convinced that's the way it shouldn't be. I always felt more comfortable wearing the different hats. I look forward to being able to do that again."

Foster said he had plenty of other reasons for choosing Chattanooga.

His family visited Chattanooga when it hosted the SEC tournament during his Vanderbilt tenure and learned to appreciate the area. The school is located just a few hours from his grandchildren in Athens, Ga. Foster also liked the energy and coaching background of new Chattanooga athletic director David Blackburn.

"It was apparent from the beginning of this process that the strong tradition of excellence surrounding our women's basketball program would attract a well-qualified candidate pool," Blackburn said in a university release. "I had no idea that we would be able to hire a Hall of Famer like Jim Foster. His career speaks for itself. He has achieved success at both the collegiate and international levels, while maintaining programs that graduate student-athletes and prepare them for productive and meaningful lives."

Foster has reached 26 NCAA tournaments in 35 years as a head coach.

He began his head coaching career in 1978 at St. Joseph's, where he went 248-126 in 13 seasons. St. Joseph's earned NCAA bids in six of his last seven years there.

Foster went from there to Vanderbilt, where he led the Commodores to a 256-99 record from 1991-2002. Vanderbilt reached the Final Four in 1993, advanced to four other regional finals and made a total of 10 NCAA tournament appearances in his 11 seasons.

He went 279-82 at Ohio State the last 11 seasons. Ohio State made a school-record 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances from 2003-12 and won six straight Big Ten regular-season titles from 2005-10.

Now he will try to lead one more school to consistent NCAA berths.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge," Foster said. "Wes Moore has done an absolutely terrific job. The bar's set pretty high."