Texas Counting On Coach Gail Goestenkors To Bring Back Glory Days

Wednesday, April 4th 2007, 7:42 am
By: News On 6

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ For two decades, Texas has been trying to recapture the standard of perfection Hall of Fame coach Jody Conradt and the Longhorns set.

The university thinks Gail Goestenkors may be just the woman to do it.

Goestenkors, who built a powerhouse in 15 years at Duke, resigned from the Blue Devils on Tuesday to take over a Texas program longing to return to the dominance Conradt wielded over women's basketball when she had the first undefeated NCAA championship team.

There have been other good runs since, but Conradt, one of only two Division I coaches with 900 wins, retired March 12 after the Longhorns didn't make the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

Goestenkors _ her Duke players called her Coach G _ immediately surfaced as Texas' top choice to be the new coach and it's easy to see why: five Atlantic Coast Conference championships, four Finals Fours and 10 years in a row of reaching the NCAA tournament round of 16.

The only thing missing on her resume is a national championship. Goestenkors came close, getting to the title game in 1999 and 2006.

She had done almost all she could at Duke. And when Texas came calling, she decided it was time to head West.

Goestenkors and Texas officials won't comment publicly until Thursday, when her new job is approved by University of Texas regents.

``In the end, it came down to her seeking a new challenge at this stage in her career and her life,'' Duke athletic director Joe Alleva said in a statement. ``While we are disappointed that she has chosen to leave, we have to look forward now and search for the best women's basketball coach for Duke University.''

Duke fans hoped to keep the 44-year-old Goestenkors, who won seven ACC coach of the year awards and compiled a career record of 396-99.

The decision came less than a week after about 200 fans gathered outside Cameron Indoor Stadium in hopes of persuading her to stay. But on Tuesday afternoon, there was little activity around Cameron as Goestenkors met with her players off campus to inform them of her decision.

The night Conradt retired, Texas officials made it clear they would be willing to pay for a top-notch coach. Conradt earned $550,000 a year. While Goestenkors' salary at Duke is not a public record, it was believed the private school wasn't likely to match a high offer from the Longhorns, which is expected to be upwards of $800,000.

Chris Plonsky, the Texas women's athletic director and considered one of the most powerful women in college sports, declined comment outside her office Tuesday.

Goestenkors visited the Texas campus last week, when she met with Plonsky and members of the school's search committee and toured the Longhorns' 44,000-square-foot practice facilities.

``I think she would be awesome,'' Texas guard Carla Cortijo said when Goestenkors visited. ``We can be as good as Duke or anybody in the country.''

In a statement last week, Goestenkors said she admired the program built by Conradt, who spent 31 seasons with the Longhorns. Conradt retired with a career record of 900-306 in 38 seasons at Sam Houston State, Texas-Arlington and Texas.

That tradition seemed to intrigue Goestenkors. The Longhorns also boasted a program regarded as one of the nation's best, with first-rate facilities and a recruiting pipeline to 1,300 Texas high schools. Goestenkors already has established herself with those schools, signing All-American senior Lindsey Harding out of the Houston area.

``I know this was an extremely difficult decision for her,'' Duke president Richard Brodhead said in a statement, ``but ultimately the lure of a new challenge outweighed her many ties at Duke.''

Her last Duke team was one of her best. The Blue Devils (32-2) won a school-record 30 straight games, ended the regular season ranked No. 1 and held the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament. But they were upset in the regional semifinals by Rutgers when Harding missed a pair of free throws with 0.1 seconds left in the 53-52 loss.

Texas last advanced to the Final Four in 2003 and appeared ready to make a return to its dominance of the 1980s. But the Longhorns failed to get past the round of 16 the next year and faltered sharply the next two seasons.

In 2005-06, Texas had a losing record. The Longhorns rebounded last season to finish 18-14 but went 6-10 in the Big 12.