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Estep replaced as St. John’s women’s b-ball coach

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The St. John’s women’s basketball team left its Jamaica campus Friday to travel to Blacksburg, Va. for a Big East game at Virginia Tech Saturday. Darcel Estep, however, didn’t make the trip. After just 2 1/2 years at the helm, Estep was fired as the team’s head coach.

“We felt it was necessary to make a change at this time,” said Dave Wegrzyn, vice president for university development and athletics. “I can’t go into specifics. It’s the university’s policy to not go into personnel issues.”

Estep compiled a record of 22-51 and was just 8-29 in the Big East, including a 3-13 and 0-5 record this season. Also fired was first assistant Joyce Jenkins. Estep did not return calls for comment.

Second-year assistant coach Pechone Stepps has been named interim head coach for the rest of the season and made his debut at No. 21 Virginia Tech, a 69-50 Red Storm loss.

First-year assistant Brooke Renkens remains on staff and former St. John’s basketball player Bernard Rencher, the school’s coordinator of student-athlete academic support, and Kathy Meehan, the associate vice president for athletics, will also assist the program.

“Our goal hasn’t changed in terms of the start of the season or now,” Wegrzyn said. “We have a competitive team and we’ve shown good progress. That goal [of making the Big East Tournament] is still there, and we’re hoping to continue to be competitive in the league.”

Wegrzyn said the search for a new coach has already begun and will intensify as the season comes to a close. He added it is important for the next coach to be able to recruit locally, which is something Estep was unable, or unwilling, to do.

“When we chose a coach to replace Darcel, it’ll be the best coach that is prepared to be competitive in the Big East conference and in the NCAA, to recruit New York City, to recruit regionally and, on occasion, to recruit nationally. That’s the kind of program that we want to be,” Wegrzyn said. “New York City is a very unique, wonderful place. As a coach, we want to use the city to lead the school towards success.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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