Texas women’s basketball coach Karen Aston will not return next season, athletic director Chris Del Conte said on Friday.
Aston, 55, has coached the Longhorns for the last eight years. The three-year extension that she signed in 2016 is set to expire in August, and she was paid a base salary of $515,000 this past season. Friday’s announcement comes a week after Del Conte made the decision to retain men’s basketball coach Shaka Smart, who has three years left on his contract.
Aston went 184-83 with the Longhorns. Texas advanced to the Elite Eight in 2016 and was in the Sweet 16 in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Among the four head coaches who have worked for a Texas program that debuted in 1974, only Jody Conradt recorded more wins and years coached than Aston.
Aston did not respond to the American-Statesman’s requests for comment on Friday. In a statement, Del Conte said the decision to not extend Aston’s contract was “extremely difficult.”
“We have had our successes and challenges, and through it all, Coach Aston has been a first-class representative of UT,” Del Conte said. “She is a dedicated coach and special person. After evaluating and reviewing where we stand as a program and discussing the future, we have determined to move in a different direction with our continued goals to work to contend for conference championships and NCAA elite status.”
Aston, who was a longtime assistant under Conradt, was hired in 2012 to replace Gail Goestenkors. Aston came to Texas after a 15-16 season at North Texas. She also went 86-47 as the head coach at Charlotte for four years.
Aston’s first team at Texas struggled to a 12-18 showing and the worst winning percentage in school history. The program soon took off, though. Texas won at least 20 games in each of its next six seasons, and Aston was named the Big 12’s coach of the year in 2017.
Fourteen McDonald’s All-Americans competed for Aston at Texas. Her 2017-18 team, which opened its season ranked No. 2 in the country, had 10 such signees.
But not all of those high-profile signings panned out. The three McDonald’s All-Americans in UT’s 2017 recruiting class all transferred before their junior years, and Texas had a messy divorce with 2018 signee Sedona Prince. UT’s last two classes featured only one top-50 recruit (Celeste Taylor in 2019).
Perhaps the most damning section of Aston’s résumé involved her record against in-state rival Baylor. Aston beat Baylor only once — an 85-79 win in Waco in 2017 — during her tenure. Baylor, which won a national title in 2019, beat Aston’s Longhorns 18 times by an average of 15.3 points.
With Aston coaching without an extension and for her future this season, Texas was ranked as high as 15th in the country at one point. The Longhorns recorded notable wins over then-No. 1 Stanford, No. 17 Tennessee and No. 25 TCU. But they also suffered a mind-numbing loss at Kansas and were routed twice by Baylor. The 69.5 points averaged by Texas ranked 81st nationally. The 64.2 points it allowed ranked 169th.
Texas (19-11) was still the Big 12’s third-place team this shortened season. The Longhorns were a likely shoo-in for the NCAA Tournament, but the team never started its postseason run. On March 12, the Big 12 and the NCAA both canceled their tournaments due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Aston’s replacement will be the fourth coaching hire for Del Conte, who took over at Texas in December 2017. That next summer, Del Conte hired Oregon’s Mike White to coach softball and Kentucky’s Edrick Floréal to lead the track and field program. Last year, he removed the interim tag from Bruce Berque’s title after the men’s tennis team won a national championship.
If the UT roster stays intact, its next coach will inherit seven players and a five-member recruiting class. Four of the team’s top six scorers from this past season have graduated, but 6-5 sophomore forward Charli Collier was a first-team all-conference honoree. Taylor also averaged 9.3 points during her first year in Austin.
Editor’s note: This story originally stated that Karen Aston’s replacement will be the third head coach hired at Texas by Chris Del Conte. This will be Del Conte’s fourth hire.