Illinois hires another Marquette coach


Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois Head Coach Nancy Fahey shouts at her team from the sideline during the game against Nebraska at State Farm Center on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. The Illini lost 77-67.

By Claire O, Staff Writer

Illinois women’s basketball head coach Nancy Fahey has hired a second Marquette coach, Vernette Skeete, this offseason after the team announced the hire of Scott Merritt, a former Marquette staffer on March 26.

Fahey, who was hired in 2017 and had not made many coaching changes to begin her tenure at Illinois, has hired two new assistants in the last month.

In the Fahey era, the Illini have gone 30-61, including only four victories in conference play. Fahey recently got a contract extension through 2025, Illinois athletics announced April 3.

Fahey had parted ways with former assistant coach LaKale Malone before hiring Merritt. She also moved Tianna Kirkland to a new role and hired Skeete for Kirkland’s old role. Former coach Matt Bollant hired both Malone and Kirkland.

After a third season of finishing at the bottom of the Big Ten, Fahey decided to change up the coaching staff.

“We had the opportunity to make some adjustments,” Fahey said. “We’re really excited about the addition of both coach Skette and coach Merritt.”

Though both of the hires came from the same school, Fahey said she hired the coaches separately. She wasn’t setting out to poach two coaches from the same school, but new coach Merritt had “recommended” Skeete.

“I did my homework,” Fahey said. “Her resume is really outstanding, and once you meet her, her personality is dynamic.”

She added that she didn’t have any connections to Marquette before hiring the coaches.

“It’s just like I would know any other Big Ten school … or school in this area with success,” Fahey said. “It was just finding good coaches for what we had to do.”

Fahey is eager to have Skeete on staff and believes Skeete’s knowledge of the Midwest will help in recruiting.

Fahey moved Kirkland to Head of Recruiting and Director of Student-Athlete Development and said other Big Ten schools have similar positions.

In her new role, Kirkland will oversee the recruiting of athletes as well as make sure the athletes have support and resources once on campus.

“Recruiting is the lifeline of every program, and the organization of that is very intense,” Fahey said. “It’s a dual role, and one I think that she will definitely flourish in and help our program.”


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