Jody Conradt: The players' perspective on their Naismith Hall of Fame coach
As Jody Conradt approached and recorded career win 880 recently - a win which moved her into the No. 2 all-time college basketball victories spot, ahead of legendary men's coach Dean Smith - she repeatedly was asked about the significance of moving past men's basketball coaching legend Dean Smith in all-time wins. Her response:
"It's all about being fortunate to be at Texas and work with the great players with great aspirations who have represented this University… Our current players want to represent UT, win and be the best teammates possible, like the dozens and dozens of other Texas players they followed here … To see where the players are and how much they mature is what is significant."
When past and current Longhorns speak about Conradt, they admire her as a teacher and motivator.
"The biggest life lesson I've learned from Coach Conradt is how to be a more classy and respectable person," noted senior guard Nina Norman. "I liked to showboat in high school and AAU ball. Coach put a stop to it right away. She shows us immediately the right way to act and carry ourselves. I've matured so much faster because of it. Academics are equally as important to her as basketball, too. Now, it is frustrating and painful not to be winning like we expected, and Coach is there to remind us about facing challenges and adversity and fighting back with pride."
"I loved the fact that Coach Conradt and her staff were so classy and respectful in the recruiting process," said freshman Erika Arriaran. "Also, Coach is always wearing new "kicks", and all the coaches wear their great Texas gear with pride.
"After I took my official visit, I called Coach Conradt to tell her how excited I was, but the way I started the conversation made her think I was saying, 'thanks but no thanks', that I was going to end it (recruiting). I said, 'you've been great to meet, I really respect you'- and she stopped me and said, 'Erika, it's all right. We have enjoyed meeting you. I wish you the best and hope you have a great career.'
I sat back and thought, Coach Conradt is being this nice and classy, and she thinks I am NOT coming but I am! She is not like some other coaches I've met. I knew then that coming to Texas was the best choice for me, and it's true. Coach wants you to carry yourself respectfully and represent yourself and the school the best you can."
Mari Mergerson also talked about her recruiting process.
"After I hurt my knee the summer before my senior year, I was scared that schools would back off, and some did," Mergerson said. "But, I immediately got phone calls from Coach Conradt and Karen (Aston). They reassured me of their interest and that they were behind me. That made a great impression, because they showed commitment and belief in me when others backed away."
"I loved Coach Conradt's heart the best when I was being recruited- her heart for UT and her heart for the game," said freshman Aubry Cook. "She gets on us when we are bad at practice but then she leaves it and supports us positively off the court. She wants you to be the best person you can be, school-wise and basketball-wise, and not take shortcuts."
"I came out of high school thinking it's all going to be so easy. I didn't grasp reality that you have to work hard every day for everything you want," fifth-year senior guard Coco Reed noted. "Coach Conradt was so supportive of me when my knee was really messed up last year. She told me that it was my choice to play or not and that she would support me either way. She put the ball in my court and gave me the opportunity to make a big decision for myself. That inspired me to get out here and play as hard as I could this year - because she showed me trust and respect."
Two former Longhorn standouts echo the current players' thoughts.
"Coach Conradt and Texas invested in me when I wanted to come out of retirement and play again," noted current WNBA point guard and former Academic All-American Jamie Carey. "There's a lot to be said about the simple act of believing in someone and how empowering it can be. Without people like Coach to support me and help me, I wouldn't have the successes which have come my way."
"Coach Conradt invests in people. No 18 year-old female has the skills it takes to be successful in life," noted former guard Alisha Sare '03, co-captain of the 2003 Final Four team. "That's where Coach Conradt comes in and makes a difference. She wants to help turn you into hard-working, respectable women. She always has and always will believe in me. She never gives up on anyone. It's almost as if basketball is just her tool for teaching the game of life more than the sport itself. She's a Hall of Famer for doing both."