Newbauer impressed Florida AD long before women's job opened

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Cameron Newbauer auditioned for the Florida women's basketball job long before athletic director Scott Stricklin called.

And he didn't even realize it.

Newbauer was coaching Belmont in the NCAA Tournament last year when Stricklin noticed him from afar. Mississippi State's AD at the time, Stricklin was so intrigued with the job Newbauer and the 13th-seeded Bruins were doing against No. 4 seed Michigan State in Starkville, Mississippi, that he wanted to hear what Newbauer had to say after the game. So Stricklin slipped into the back of his news conference and left impressed.

''I thought, `I hope I'm not in the market for a women's basketball coach for a long time, but I may have a colleague somewhere around the country who is, so it's good to keep this thing in the back of my file,'" Stricklin said.

Six months later, Stricklin got the job at Florida. And after he fired Amanda Butler earlier this month, the first person who came to mind was Newbauer.

Stricklin hired Newbauer on Monday, giving him a five-year contract worth $500,000 annually. Stricklin interviewed San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon for the job, but ended hiring Newbauer after it became clear that Hammon wanted to remain in the NBA.

''We had some intriguing candidates,'' Stricklin said. ''It's hard to get too deep into a conversation until you find out what the interest level is. And Cam, instantly the interest level was absolutely there for the University of Florida. And some other candidates weren't quite as strong. So it doesn't matter how intriguing they are if they're not fired up to come here and do it. ... It's a hard job. It takes a ton of energy and a ton of commitment, and unless you're all in, you're not going to be very successful.''

Newbauer spent the last four years at Belmont, leading the Bruins to consecutive NCAA Tournament berths the last two years. He previously worked at Louisville, Georgia and Siena.

He's now tasked with making the Gators relevant in the Southeastern Conference, something the previous nine coaches failed to do with much consistency.

Women's basketball is the only program at Florida without a conference championship.

''Someone else's opinion of us doesn't have to become our reality,'' Newbauer said. ''It doesn't matter what everybody said. It doesn't matter what hasn't happened. What matters is what we do today for tomorrow. What matters is how we move going forward.''

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More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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