Illinois Women's Basketball Coach Quits

Tuesday, April 17th 2007, 7:43 pm
By: News On 6

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) _ Illinois coach Theresa Grentz resigned Tuesday, less than two months after she sought a contract extension.

Grentz, 10th in career victories among Division I women's coaches, said during a news conference the decision to step aside was her own.

She had said as recently as last month that she hoped to coach beyond the end of her contract, which would have expired at the end of next season. Grentz couldn't explain what had changed.

``It hits you,'' said Grentz, who held back tears until the end of the news conference. ``I can't explain it to you. I've always been a 'feel' player and a 'feel' coach.''

The Illini finished last season at 19-12, and 8-8 in the Big Ten, in fourth place. Their season ended in the third round of the NIT with a 66-51 loss to Kansas State. She finishes 210-156 at Illinois.

Grentz, who coached the 1992 U.S. women's Olympic basketball team to a bronze medal and was inducted to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001, made $260,000 a year. Gail Goestenkors recently was guaranteed more than a million dollars a year to move from Duke to Texas. Michigan State head coach Joanne P. McCallie recently signed a five-year deal worth $500,000 a year.

Grentz's contract includes a clause requiring her to repay the school $260,000 for every year left if she resigns. University spokeswoman Robin Kaler, however, said that clause is negotiable and hasn't yet been worked out.

The Illini failed to make the postseason for 11 years before Grentz took the job. She led the team to their only Big Ten title, in 1997, and took them to the postseason in 10 of her 12 seasons.

But Illinois hasn't won 20 games in a season since 2000.

Athletic director Ron Guenther said Grentz, who had only two losing seasons _ both at Illinois _ in 33 years as a head coach, recently hadn't lived up to her own standards.

``She was not having the success she wanted,'' said Guenther, who hired Grentz in 1995. ``She's a very competitive, very competitive person.''

Grentz, he added, failed to capitalize on the momentum she built up during her first few seasons at Illinois.

``You've got to grab the momentum, and I don't think we did it,'' he said.

Before Illinois, she was head coach for 19 years at Rutgers, where she won the 1982 national championship.

Grentz was a dominant 5-foot-11 center for Immaculata College in suburban Philadelphia. Her teams won three AIAW national titles from 1972-74. The same year she graduated she was hired as a part-time head coach at Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia, where she led the Hawks to two winning seasons before moving on to Rutgers.

Grentz didn't specify her future plans, saying she might coach again at the pro, college or even high school levels. Or, she said, she might go into politics, declining to elaborate.