Let’s start by getting the important question out of the way.

Does Oregon’s new softball coach go by Melyssa, or Missy?

“My name is Melyssa,” she said, “but everyone who knows me in the softball world calls me Missy.”

OK, Missy it is. Next question: How does Missy Lombardi go about replacing Mike White, the coach who led Oregon to five Pac-12 titles and five appearances in the Women’s College World Series?

“You see all the Pac-12 championships that have been won and the trips to the World Series,” Lombardi said. “What I would like to do is to be able to enhance what is here. I think there are some things I can do that will allow them to maybe take things to another level.”

I like that answer. It’s tempting to focus on what Oregon lost when White departed for Texas, and to be clear, the loss was significant. White built Oregon into a national power and made Jane Sanders Stadium an intimidating place, as Lombardi experienced when she visited with Oklahoma this past season.

The one thing White didn’t do was win a national championship. As great as his teams were, I wasn’t the only one wondering whether he’d hit his ceiling at Oregon — especially after this year, when the Ducks went to Oklahoma City with the No. 1 overall seed and were bounced in three games.

Is Lombardi the coach who can break Oregon’s World Series curse? She was part of four national championships at Oklahoma, but all came as an assistant to head coach Patty Gasso. The Ducks are banking that she picked up enough know-how in 21 years as an assistant to bring that Sooner swagger to Eugene.

“When you’re at that high level, there are some little things that go a really long way,” Lombardi said. “Those are things in my career that I’ve learned in going to Oklahoma City and winning national championships, and I think those are things I can bring here to Oregon.”

Hiring a first-time head coach always entails a level of risk. That question was asked during Lombardi’s introductory news conference, though not by a newspaper reporter. It was Becky Sisley, Oregon’s softball coach from 1965-79, who chimed in from the front row to ask Lombardi if she felt prepared for the job after spending so long as an assistant.

“My title has been associate head coach,” Lombardi said, “so that ‘associate’ is in the way. Now I’m a head coach.

"I’ve been coaching 21 years, and I’m very confident with my philosophy and my coaching style and the way I connect with our athletes.”

Athletic director Rob Mullens said Lombardi’s name was mentioned frequently when Oregon consulted people around the sport. There’s no doubt she’s qualified. But if there’s downside to this hire, it’s that Oregon traded a relatively sure thing for a coach getting her first shot.

Texas should have been amply familiar with Lombardi’s work. If the Longhorns could have stomached hiring a coach from across the Red River, she was available.

Lombardi, too, could have jumped at another head coaching job, but she opted to wait for the perfect situation. Instead of starting at a low-level program, she’s taking over a ready-made World Series contender with a new stadium and a fan base that won’t have to be recruited.

“I’ve been at Oklahoma for a very long time,” Lombardi said, who played for the Sooners as a catcher from 1995-96. “I think a lot of people thought that I would never leave Oklahoma. But for me, I knew in order to leave Oklahoma it was going to take a really special place.”

It’s hard to imagine a better situation for a first-time head coach. The biggest question was how players recruited and developed by White would respond to the new coach, and although I've heard at least a couple have expressed interest in transferring to Texas, most have responded enthusiastically to Lombardi’s hiring.

We’ll find out in time if Lombardi is able to do what White could not and win a national championship at Oregon. It hurts to lose a coach of White’s caliber, but I also think it’s possible he’d taken the Ducks as far as he could.

This seems like a good time to try something — or someone — new.