LOS ANGELES — Lindsay Gottlieb is returning to the Pac-12 as the head women’s basketball coach at USC.
The school on Monday announced the hiring of Gottlieb, an assistant coach with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 43-year-old Gottlieb spent the past two seasons with the Cavs after a successful stint as the women’s head coach at California, where she built the Golden Bears into a national power from 2011-19. Cal went 179-89 under Gottlieb and made seven NCAA Tournament appearances in her eight seasons in Berkeley, reaching the Bears’ first Final Four in 2013.
After two years away, Gottlieb is headed back to the West Coast with a mandate to revitalize the Trojans, whose once-powerful program has underachieved for 15 years. The Trojans went 11-12 last season, finishing eighth in the Pac-12 under now-retired coach Mark Trakh.
“I am inspired by the incredible history of this program and excited about the opportunity to do special things with the young women I will have the privilege to coach,” Gottlieb said in a statement.
“I went to the NBA to challenge myself at the highest levels of the game of basketball and was fully invested in that journey,” she added. “However, the commitment of President Carol Folt and athletic director Mike Bohn to women’s basketball at USC, and to my vision of success, made it clear that now is the right time to come here and use all my coaching experience to partner with the young women in the program, the administration and our future student-athletes to make USC women’s basketball the most dynamic program in the country.”
Gottlieb returns to a conference loaded with talent in several contending programs. Stanford is the reigning NCAA champion after beating Arizona in the title game. Oregon made the Sweet Sixteen, while UCLA and Oregon State also won NCAA Tournament games.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer called Gottlieb’s move to USC “a great hire.”
UCLA coach Cori Close said she believes “the Pac-12 got better today. Lindsay is a great hire for USC. She is a proven winner and develops people as well as basketball players. Rising tides lift all boats and the Pac-12 women’s basketball boats rose to another level.”
Gottlieb was hired away from Cal by Cavs coach John Beilein in 2019, becoming the seventh female assistant coach in NBA history and the first women’s head coach from a Power 5 league to jump to the NBA.
But Beilein, the former Michigan coach, left Cleveland after less than a season, and the Cavs have had two rough years while Gottlieb has been on their staff. Cleveland is staggering to the finish of the current season on a 10-game losing streak and will miss the playoffs once again.
Gottlieb was often praised by Cleveland’s players for her preparedness and basketball knowledge. And while she was something of a pioneer in her jump from the women’s game, Gottlieb’s success at Cal made her an obvious target for college programs looking to reach national prominence.
Bohn said Gottlieb is “a trailblazer who smashed through the glass ceiling of men’s professional sports. I cannot think of a better coach, leader, and role model for our young women.”
Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff credited Gottlieb’s “fearlessness” in her transition from college to the NBA. He said her impact went way beyond the court.
“How she cares about other people. How she opens your eyes to different scenarios and things that are going on in the world, and it’s every single day,” Bickerstaff said. “You see how she embraces people and how people welcome her. All those things that make it difficult in our business, she excelled at.”
Gottlieb seized an undoubtedly lucrative collegiate opportunity with the Trojans, who can give her the financial resources and national visibility necessary to restore the women’s program to the perennial winner it was during the 1980s and early 1990s with Hall of Famers Cheryl Miller, Cynthia Cooper and Lisa Leslie.
Trakh retired late last month after going 65-50 with no NCAA Tournament appearances in his second stint in charge of the Trojans.
USC has made just one NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006 and had just two 20-win seasons since 2005 — an improbably poor track record for a powerhouse university in the heart of the talent-rich Los Angeles area.
Gottlieb is a New York state native who played college basketball at Brown, graduating in 1999. She was the head coach at UC Santa Barbara from 2009-11 before landing at Cal.
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