Conradt Resigns As Texas Coach

Tuesday, March 13th 2007, 5:53 am
By: News On 6

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ After 38 seasons, 900 victories, a national championship and a pioneering role in shaping women's basketball, Texas coach Jody Conradt decided it was time to retire.

The 65-year-old Hall of Fame coached ended her career Monday night with her surprise announcement she is stepping down to let someone else lead the Longhorns program after missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight season.

``We were capable of beating anyone (and) there were times we were not so good,'' a tearful Conradt said at a news conference.

Her team went 18-14 this season with several quality wins, but finished well back in the Big 12 after a late swoon.

``This is a young team, one that will be back and one that will be very good in the future,'' she said. ``It's not acceptable for me, it's not acceptable for the University of Texas not to be in the NCAA tournament two years in a row.''

Conradt had barely announced her decision when her peers acknowledged her impact on the game. Conradt's teams were a fixture in the tournament for decades and once dominated the women's basketball landscape.

Tennessee's Pat Summitt, the only Division I coach with more victories, said Conradt called her Monday with the news. She called Conradt a mentor and noted she took her share of losses against Texas.

``She's been a great friend of mine, a mentor, and we're going to miss her. But she's left her footprints all over the game and all over a lot of us coaches,'' Summitt said.

When Conradt won her first game as a coach at Sam Houston State in 1969, women played six-on-six basketball and only two players could go the length of the court. She was a physical education teacher who was not paid to coach.

When she resigned, she had two years left on a contract that paid her $540,500 a year.

Conradt spent 31 seasons in Austin and won her only national championship in 1986. She won career victory No. 900 just last week.

Texas lost five in a row in February and went into the Big 12 tournament having lost six of its last seven conference games. The Longhorns won their first tournament game in Oklahoma City, but then lost to No. 9 Oklahoma on Wednesday.

``It's a winning business. Losing is not acceptable,'' Conradt said when she addressed the media with her players immediately after the NCAA tournament selections were announced and her team was not included.

``The easiest thing to change is the leadership,'' she said.

Conradt fought back tears several times during the news conference. Her players stood off to the side, many of them sobbing and hugging.

``What she's done for the game is so important. She's a legend, a pioneer,'' senior Tiffany Jackson said. ``I don't think anyone saw it coming.''

Conradt most recently reached the Final Four in 2003 and with top recruits coming in, the Longhorns seemed ready to stay among the national elite for some time.

But the program went on a slow decline instead. Although Texas finished first and second in the Big 12 the next two seasons, the Longhorns were eliminated from the NCAA tournament in the round of 16 in 2004; the second round in 2005; and fell to 13-15 overall last season when injuries, immaturity and inexperience disrupted one of the top recruiting classes in the country.

Texas seemed to be turning things around this season until some of the same problems reared again, and the Longhorns stumbled badly over the second half of the schedule.

Conradt said she couldn't find the formula to bring the best out of her players this season.

``Hard lessons are sometimes learned through sports. You have to bring it every day. If you don't bring it every day, sometimes it doesn't work out for you,'' she said. ``This team knows it has the potential to play to Texas standards.''

Conradt said the decision to leave was hers and she was not pushed out by the university. She had been thinking about retiring for several days and talked to friends and family about it.

``Her choice totally,'' said Chris Plonsky, Texas women's athletic director, who seemed as saddened and stunned by the announcement as anyone in the room. ``Jody would never go beyond a point where she felt she wasn't living up to (her) standard.''

Conradt is 900-306 in 38 seasons at Sam Houston State, Texas-Arlington and Texas. Her Longhorns team in 1985-86 went 34-0 and set a benchmark for athletic women's teams that would dominate opponents with speed, size and strength.

``Jody is a real giant of our profession, a lady with real class,'' said Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer. ``She is one of the most meticulous, thorough-minded coaches I know, a brilliant hard worker. I am in awe of her and have tremendous respect for her.''

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, who beat Conradt in the Final Four in 2003, also praised Conradt for her contributions to the game.

``I think they established something that every other coach in America wanted to build,'' Auriemma said. ``Jody obviously will go down as one of the greatest coaches in the history of our game.''