Pratt leaves Tulane for associate position at Auburn
Rarely in the college coaching world does an opportunity come around that benefits both career and family. When that scenario played out for Andrew Pratt last month, he jumped at it. The two-year Tulane head coach announced his resignation on Friday and will become the associate head women’s coach at Auburn.
“As most decisions do, it came down to family and moving a little closer to home,” said Pratt, born and raised just outside Memphis, Tenn. He and wife Sara Buff, also a Tennessean, spent 12 years in Knoxville, Tenn., before moving to New Orleans when Pratt took the Tulane job in August 2011.
Auburn coach Kim Evans, diagnosed last month with ovarian cancer, sought out Pratt before the national championship. She began thinking about hiring an assistant back in January, but knew after her diagnosis that she needed someone stable and experienced to lead the program as she undergoes chemotherapy for the next several months.
Evans, in her 20th year at Auburn, says many might see Pratt's hiring as a sign that her retirement is close on the horizon, but that's not the case.
“As long as I’m effective as a coach and having fun, and as long as the kids are having fun, I want to coach,” Evans said. “It’s nice to be able to concentrate on getting well.”
Evans underwent her first chemo treatment on Thursday, but plans to do behind-the-scenes coaching from her couch as she recovers.
“I think we’re going to be a good one-two punch,” she said.
Pratt calls Auburn, Ala., similar to Knoxville, and a good place to raise sons Cooper, 3, and Westin, 1 month. The move also allows Pratt to transition into an SEC coaching position, even if it might appear to outsiders as a step down.
“I think it’s an opportunity for something really special at Auburn,” said Pratt, named the 2013 Conference USA and Louisiana Coach of the Year at the end of the season.
Coincidentally, Pratt led the Green Wave to a program-best second-place finish at the NCAA East Regional hosted at Auburn in May. Tulane followed with a ninth-place finish at the national championship, another program best. The Green Wave finished the season ranked No. 15 by Golfweek, and Tulane officials will immediately begin a national search for Pratt’s replacement.
Pratt brings stability to the Auburn program, and calls the Auburn move a long-term opportunity, even if he no longer has the “head coach” title beside his name. Pratt has the talent and experience to hit the ground running in Auburn, and can fulfill a need for the Tigers immediately. The consistency and staying power he will add to the program is something that was important to Evans.
Pratt, meanwhile, awaits the day the two can coach in tandem.
“I know she’s going to come back," he said, "and come back stronger than ever."
Beth Ann Baldry contributed