The first meet for the University of Arizona gymnastics team isn’t until Jan. 6, so the school’s new athletic director, Dave Heeke, has some time to find a replacement for the head coach he just lost.
But since the program needs guidance as it prepares for its 2018 schedule, Heeke figured to implement some immediate stability by asking John Court to step in as interim head coach, a decision announced yesterday by the Pac-12 school.
Court has been on the Wildcat coaching staff for the last 19 years. How’s that for stability?
The sudden departure of Tabitha Yim has caught the athletic department off guard and Heeke no doubt wants to give the task of replacing her some thought. Yim left the Arizona program after just two seasons as head coach when Stanford evidently made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
Yim is a graduate of Stanford, where she was a 14-time All-American and spent five years on the coaching staff before being hired by Arizona. She won two regional titles and one Pac-10 championship on the balance beam, two regional titles on the uneven bars, and twice finished third in floor exercise at the NCAA Championships.
The retirement of Stanford’s long-time head coach Kristen Smyth a couple of weeks ago paved the way for bringing Yim back to The Farm.
In each of her two seasons at Arizona, Yim’s teams finished in the top 25 nationally.
Court, who was named the South Central Regional Assistant Coach of the Year in 2007 and again in 2012, has spent his 19 years with the program working primarily with the vault and floor exercise teams, and has also served as the program’s recruiting coordinator during much of that time.
He has head-coaching experience, serving in that capacity for three of the five years he coached at the University of Vermont from 1993 through 1998. Twice during those three years he was named the conference Coach of the Year.
The UofA program has posted a streak of 31 consecutive NCAA regional appearances. Court has been there for more than half of those trips to regional, so he knows how it’s done.
It has been that winning formula that has built a strong base of support for the women’s gymnastics program in Tucson. In Yim’s first season, the gymcats opened the 2015-16 season with a win over Michigan State and drew 3,707 enthusiastic fans to set a new school attendance record.
It’s unlikely that Court will enjoy those kind of numbers, should he still be running things when this season opens. Last year, the gymcats took third place at the Pac-12 Championships and were the fourth seed at the north central regionals, where they finished in fifth place.
When Heeke makes his final decision on a permanent head coach, it will be only his second hire since stepping into the job last February. He hired Augie Busch last month to run the swimming & diving program.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)