But Stansbury wanted to make sure Fortner was ready to go all in on coaching.
“I knew she had a pretty good gig, and so that was something that we definitely discussed, and it was pretty apparent that she really missed the development of young people piece that coaching brings,” Stansbury said.
Fortner said she had considered other opportunities to return before this hiring cycle – Tech was the only job she considered this time around – but said she wasn’t ready.
“I was really enjoying my time at ESPN,” she said. “I just wasn’t ready. That’s why I go back and say it had to be a situation that I felt like could be a good fit and after the first meeting (with Stansbury and his staff), I knew it could be a good fit. This was the right time and place.”
The offer was extended Saturday night in a meeting with Stansbury, as Fortner tried to keep her interview a secret from the army of ESPN employees in Tampa. Following the broadcast of the championship game on Sunday, she accepted Monday.
She will need to get started quickly. At least three players (all starters) are in the transfer portal, although all but two team members were at the news conference Wednesday, and the missing two were in Greensboro, N.C., to receive a community-service award from the ACC on behalf of the athletic department. Fortner was about two minutes into her opening comments when she said that her No. 1 priority will be to keep the roster intact.
“I think this is an extremely talented roster,” Fortner said. “It’s full of potential.”
Stansbury went so far as to call it a team capable of making the Sweet 16, a destination that Tech has reached once in team history.
It won’t be her first experience managing such a situation. Her first college head-coaching job, at Purdue in 1996, followed a rocky separation between the school and coach Lin Dunn (and Joseph, who was an assistant).
“One of the things that I was definitely looking for was a person that had experience transitioning a team,” Stansbury said. “And those of course, there can be all kinds of reasons for that. Her experience having been through this before definitely is something that just added to her holster.”
Stansbury also saw Fortner’s time away from coaching spent with ESPN as a positive, as her job has entailed talking with coaches, picking their brains and observing their practices.
“So it’s almost the best of all worlds in that you’ve got an established coach who is well-respected at every level and then has taken the time to really step back and analyze the game in a way most coaches don’t have the time to analyze,” he said.
Fortner chose to steer clear of commenting on Joseph and the situation surrounding her dismissal.
“I don’t know anything,” she said. “But how I look at this is, it’s not about that for me. I’m the new coach here, so everything to me is looking ahead.”