Richard Barron is described as a charismatic leader with the tools to rebuild the once-proud women’s basketball program at the University of Maine.

Barron, 42, was named the program’s next coach on Monday, and will be introduced at a 4 p.m. press conference today in Orono.

He has spent the last two years as an assistant at North Carolina State under Kellie Harper and is considered one of the nation’s best recruiters.

The hire ends a six-week national search by Maine after former playing legend Cindy Blodgett was fired March 29 following the program’s worst four-year stretch on record, 24-94.

Barron was signed to a five-year contract and will make $110,000 a season, said Athletic Director Steve Abbott.

“Richard Barron has a reputation as a great recruiter, but he also has a reputation as a great basketball coach,” said Abbott. “He’s someone who really understands how to build the program, including all the different aspects that go into that: the coaching, the recruiting, the marketing, the public relations. He just has such a great feel for the entire business.

“He sees the fabulous potential the program has and has just got a wealth of ideas about how to rebuild it to as good as it once was and even better.”

Robert Cobb, a retired dean who worked for 39 years at the University of Maine, chaired the search committee.

Abbott said he and Cobb reached out to former Maine sports information director Ian McCaw, now the athletic director at Baylor, who recommended Barron and nudged him to apply.

Barron was an associate head coach at Baylor from 2007-2009, where he landed the nation’s top recruit.

Six years before that, he rebuilt the program at Princeton University. The Tigers went 2-25 in the season prior to his arrival, 11-16 his first season there before going on to claim the 2005-06 Ivy League title.

“One of the things that really caught my eye was his tenure at Princeton,” said Abbott. “When he took over at Princeton the Tigers had the third worst RPI (ratings percentage index) in the country. When he left six years later Princeton was a top-100 team.”

Barron was on campus in Orono on April 29 for his formal interview with Abbott and the search committee.

During his visit he met with the team, several coaches and even supporters and fans.

“He did exceptionally well during the interviews,” said Abbott. “He just was incredibly well-received. He’s somebody who has a very nice combination of being a high-energy person with a quiet confident, demeanor. Those things don’t always go hand in hand.”

Emily Ellis, a Maine hall of fame player in the 1980s, was part of the search committee and said she can’t wait for Black Bear fans to meet Barron.

“I just think we’d better put our seatbelts on,” said Ellis.

“I really couldn’t be more thrilled. If it takes 10 specific qualities to be a Division I head coach, he’s got 11. He’s charismatic, he’ll put you right at ease. And he’s got a lot of vision as to where he wants to see the program go.”

The committee worked through some 70 applicants using everything from Skype interviews and video teleconferences to get to know candidates.

Ellis said she has been in touch with some 20 alumni expected to attend today’s press conference — including Ashley Underwood, who has been on this season of CBS’ “Survivor,” and Husson Coach Kissy Walker.

Former Maine star Amy Vachon, now the head coach at McAuley, said she plans to be there as well.

“I’m excited. I think it’s great for the program,” said Vachon. “Coach Barron has a great resume and I think is a really good person, which is really important. He has a great vision for the program. It’s a great get for the university.”

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at: jmenendez@pressherald.com