Conradt steps aside from coaching
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas women's basketball coach Jody Conradt retired Monday after her team failed to reach the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.
Conradt is second on the Division I college basketball victory list, behind only Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt.
"The easiest thing to change is the leadership," Conradt said as she addressed the media with her team immediately after the NCAA Tournament selections were announced.
Conradt had the nation's top recruiting class this season, but injuries, inexperience and immaturity hurt the Longhorns. Texas (18-14) entered the Big 12 tournament having lost six of its last seven conference games. The Longhorns won their first tournament game but then lost to No. 9 Oklahoma on Wednesday.
"It's a winning business. Losing is not acceptable," she said.
Conradt, who led Texas to a 34-0 record and its lone NCAA title in 1985-86, fought back tears several times during the emotional 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," player Tiffany Jackson said. "I don't think anyone saw it coming."
Brittainey Raven said Conradt told the team before the NCAA selections were announced. "I wasn't expecting that at all. Everybody's faces just dropped," Raven said.
Conradt said she started thinking about retiring earlier in the season.
"I'm not going to take another coaching job," she said.
Conradt picked up her 900th win Tuesday in the first round of the Big 12 Conference tournament in Oklahoma City.
"As I told her, we all appreciate what she's done for this game," Summitt said." 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."
Conradt is 900-306 in 38 seasons -- four at Sam Houston State, three at Texas-Arlington and 31 at Texas.
"She's an icon in women's basketball," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Nine hundred wins is mind boggling. As great a coach as she is, she's an even better person. I've admired her and the job she's done. I'm happy for her she's retiring and moving on, but our game will miss her. I only have the ultimate respect and admiration for her. It has to be hard. She's from my era a little bit. You think of coaches around my age retiring -- whoa."
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma also praised Conradt.
"I think they established something that every other coach in America wanted to build," Auriemma said. "I'm sure she'll be involved somehow in the basketball community. She's just too valuable a resource to just let her walk away."
JODY CONRADT'S PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES
Opening statement: The players are here, as you can see, but I prefer to make a statement or two before we start to break up and have you speak to them. Obviously, it's a very difficult situation with this team right now. They had high hopes of getting into the tournament and obviously it didn't happen. There were opportunities that we missed. There were times where we played really well, there were times where we weren't so good.
I think hard lessons are learned through sports. If you take anything away from the disappointment and [the disappointment of] the coaching staff as well, it's that you have to bring it every day. If you don't bring it every day, sometimes it doesn't work out for you. That's how I feel about this team. We were capable of beating anyone. There were times where we didn't play to our ability and obviously there was inconsistency. The games we did let slip away are probably the end result of our not being in the tournament.
This is a young team, a team that will be back - and in my opinion - will be very good in the future. It's disappointing that we can't extend the season for our two seniors [Tiffany Jackson and Katrina Robinson] because they had the most to gain and to lose. At least this team knows that they have the potential to play to Texas standards.
In addition to that, I think it is appropriate at this point in time a change be made in terms of coaching. 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.
So, after thinking about it, February was a very hard month because we lost games during that month that probably sealed our fate. It was during that time, that I started to think that Texas needs to be one of those teams challenging. Not only to be in the tournament, but to be a very high seed.
I've had a wonderful opportunity to represent this University. It's not an easy decision to step aside and not because of anything more than these young women that stand as representatives of The University of Texas. I recruited them and I believe that I would have an opportunity to coach them. But I think they think they understand that I feel as if it's time for a change. That change will come under the direction of Chris Plonsky as Women's Athletics Director and the committee she will put together.
Right now, my thoughts are with this team and wanting them to be successful and to move forward. I will be happy to answer any questions that you have, but there's not a lot more to say except to say that there's a high standard here. And, never mind I might have been a part of setting that standard. It has to be first and foremost in our minds and we haven't reached that. So, a new energy, a new voice and a new leader I think will do what's right for this program and for The University of Texas.
On when Coach Conradt made the decision to retire: I don't think there is anything to be served by going back and talking about how the whole decision was made. I never believed we were going to be in the NCAA Tournament. I know what it takes to get into the NCAA Tournament. You're always hopeful and waiting for the outcome, but I knew when we didn't win a game in February that it was not going to be something that was going to (happen), unless we made a strong run at the end, that was going to get us there.
How difficult was it for you to come to this decision after coaching for as long as you have? It's always hard. I think if I look at where I am personally, I think the thought of not having a day-to-day schedule... this is a hard job. It's a hard job for anyone who sits in the chair, not just as a coach, but as assistants as well because there is no downtime.
Things have changed dramatically since I first came to this university and assumed this role. But there is no downtime. You don't take time off from this job. If you look at the body of work and what we've accomplished and how things have changed, from a personal standpoint, it is an easy decision. But from the standpoint of having made a commitment to these players and knowing that, that's hard to step away from.
I wasn't worried about telling any of you. I wasn't worried about telling my president or my athletic director or anyone else. I was worried about telling this group and the two that have committed to come here. Because, it's almost like you go back on your word. And, if there's one thing I've tried to establish, it's that I'm going to do what I said I was going to do.
When asked if she will stay on in any capacity with The University of Texas: Well, right now, I'm going to take some time to think about that. I think in some capacity I'll stay attached to The University of Texas because it's my life. But, those decisions haven't been made and there is no firm plan at this point. I told the team my cell phone number is not going to change, so even though I will not be coaching them, I want to be a part of their support system.
With all your successes and trophies and achievements aside, what are the things you are most proud of? That's where the conflict arises. This is a business about winning - that's it. Bottom line. You have to win to be successful and happy in this business. But the things that have changed, counting around the room, there are 11 media representatives here. If I could think back to when I first came here, if there were this many people in the stands, it meant someone's family was in town. Things have changed and changed for the better, not just for The University of Texas but for women's athletics in general in terms of the credibility and visibility that women's basketball now has.
Anything she could point to why things did not work out well for the Longhorns in 2006-07 (finished with an 18-14 record, 6-10 in the Big 12)? There are several things. And I think that people who follow the program understand that. But, at this point in time, when you talk about injuries and youth, it sounds like excuses and I'll go back to what I said -- this is a winning business and excuses are not acceptable, here or anywhere else.
Will you be involved in the naming of your successor? Absolutely not.
When asked if this were a retirement or a resignation: It's a retirement from coaching. I'm not going to take another coaching job - you can write that down (laughter). Is it a retirement? I don't know. I assume that with some time the university will find something that will be meaningful and something that will be fulfilling to me. That's what we talked about. And, understand that this [decision] has been over a short period of time, so there hasn't been a lot of time to go into lengthy discussions. I'm appreciative, obviously, of the opportunity that I've had here. I'm appreciative of the willingness of the administration to allow me to do this on my timetable and what I felt was best for the team. What happens down the road I don't know at this point.
How long have you been thinking about this day? With every loss since 1976! It's a business where it's really hard. If I were going to describe it as someone in this profession for a long time, I would say this - the wins are fun and you're high and you enjoy them, but that period is shorter and the losses linger longer. So, I don't think anybody can really understand that unless they've been in this business. It's painful to lose. It's painful for any of us who have failures. When you have it (failure) and the whole world is aware and it's on the scoreboard. That's hard to deal with. I don't think... I guess I could vote on the articles that y'all write, tell you whether I like them or not, but I don't think the general public has a consensus on whether it's a win or a loss.
Talk about the tough February and how it contributed to tonight's decision. We had five losses in a row. Those were games that I felt we could have won. We didn't for one reason or another but the bottom line is [that there were] too many losses too late in the season.
Mostly the decision was what I feel. That's been how I have dealt with hard decisions. That's how I've dealt with the pressures, and the ups and downs in this business. It's not something I would verbalize.
Would you have changed your mind if Texas had been selected to the NCAA Championship? I don't think I can speculate on whether or not making the tournament would have changed that. We're living in the moment. It's a 'live in the moment kind of business'. Did I see the writing on the wall? Yes. But there's always hope. I've been involved with enough NCAA Committees that I know what they are looking for and what's going to make it hard for you to overcome.
QUOTES FROM WOMEN'S ATHLETICS DIRECTOR CHRIS PLONSKY, ASSISTANT COACHES AND PLAYERS
I think Jody has been compensated at a very respectable level. I tease her at times about when she was working two jobs [as Women's AD and head basketball coach for nine years from 1992-2001] that she was working way too cheap. The market commands a different thing today than it did certainly in 1976. I remember the headlines on Jody's story when she came for $19,000. The headline at the [Austin] American-Statesman said, 'Woman comes for man-sized salary'. It's a true story - we still have the clip.
Did this announcement come as a surprise to her? It was a surprise when her final assessment was, 'This is what I feel I need to do.' I need to tell you this. I've known this person [Jody] since 1981 when I was an SID [sports information director], and she has the same angst over losses that she used to have when we would lose one game in a month -- maybe -- in the '80's, and had the same trepidation before games, even with a team that was ranked No. 1. This is a person that takes her business very seriously.
And again, maybe it was Bev's accident [UT women's track & field coach Bev Kearney, involved in a December of 2002 auto accident which claimed two lives and resulted in temporary paralysis and surgery for Kearney] that really sort of prepared me and the rest of our staff. You know how tight our staff is. We operate like an accordion with people who are really critical to our business. That was such a lesson to me. That it can happen at any moment. Not necessarily like this, where you get a little sniff that she might be thinking about this, or he might be thinking about this. You just prepare for that moment where maybe there were a whole bunch of people surprised here, but I can definitely tell you the most surprised people were her kids. And that's what's a gut-wrencher.
Assistant Coach Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil (former National Player of the Year, Olympian and All-American in the Texas Women's Basketball program)
No one can take away what Jody Conradt has done. She set the standard that was emulated by everyone. Everyone looked at what she did with our team in 1986 and changed how they recruited, how they trained, how they thought and how they played. Jody Conradt changed the game forever.
Freshman guard Brittainey Raven
And then to hear her say, she was going to step aside... I couldn't believe it. She took us into the locker room and said that she wasn't sure that we were going to go to the (NCAA) tournament, and if not, I have to step aside. She said, 'I need for you guys to stay together." She felt bad for Trina (Katrina Robinson) and Tiffany (Jackson), because they are leaving. That was it. Then we watched the special on TV.
Everybody's faces just dropped. Erika (Arriaran) was the first one to break down. I think Coach made the decision hoping that things would turn around for us. She wants what is best for us, so I guess that is why she decided to do this today.
Redshirt freshman forward Earnesia Williams
Coach (Conradt) means a lot to the program. She's been here, she's been through some things. She's showed us the ropes, just the the pride and tradition of Texas -- she just instilled that in us. We just thank her a lot for that. I really don't know if Texas would be on the map like they are for women's basketball and women's sports all together if it weren't for Coach Conradt.
The best thing for us now is to stay together, stay with our teammates, get some rest and just go at it again off-season.
Coach was everywhere, even if you didn't want her to know something, she was there to help. You could always find her in the office, or call, and she'd always be there for you.
Senior forward Tiffany Jackson
She is one of the reasons why I came here -- so I can play under a legend. I've learned so much as a player but more so as a person. I think I'm a better young lady because of her.
I just told the younger players that right now, I know it's hard, but just work hard for whoever comes in. You have my number, just call me if you ever need anything.
Coach Conradt's extremely important to all of us. Just what she's done for the game has been so much. She's a legend and a pioneer and I think the game has grown so much since she's been here.
Junior guard Erneshia Bailey
She's one of the main reasons why I came to The University of Texas. When you think of The University of Texas, you think of Jody Conradt automatically. She was one of the frontrunners as far as Title IX in terms of women having equality and the same things that men do. You have to respect that. We do. I'm sure everywhere across America, people do.
I'm not really sure what I'm going to do next year when I come out on the floor knowing Coach Conradt won't be out there with the whistle, you know, telling us what to do. I don't really want to think about that. We'll take it day-by-day. Hopefully we get the best coach in here that we can get. They'll have some really big shoes to fill.