While top-ranked Baylor was resting for its second-round NCAA tournament game Tuesday, and defending national champions Texas A&M beat the University of Arkansas, 61-59, making it to a second-round game, the University of Texas held a press conference to announce the resignation of head coach Gail Goestenkoers. The news didn’t even crack the front page wire of ESPN.com.
As Rick Cantu of the Austin American-Statesman reported:
The Longhorns were 102-64 under Goestenkors and reached the NCAA Tournament in each of her five seasons, but her teams never lived up to the high standard she had set in her previous 15 seasons at Duke, where she led the Blue Devils to four Final Fours. Texas won only one of its six NCAA Tournament games under Goestenkors.
The 49-year-old Goestenkors said it was her idea to step down, saying, “The administration has not pushed me out the door or pressured me in any way shape or form.”
Goestenkors couched it as a personal decision, saying she was tired, and would take a break from coaching overall.
But as the American-Statesman’s Cedric Golden reported, she also admitted to telling her assistants before the season, “if we’re not successful this year, nobody will have to fire me. I’ll fire myself.”
Goestenkoers’ seven-year contract, which had an average annual value of $1.25 million, did not expire until before the 2014 school year. It also would have automatically been extended until the 2015 school year had she still been on the job this April 1.
Jim Vertuno of the Associated Press had further details from the press conference:
Goestenkors, one of the hottest coaches in the country when she left Duke for Texas in 2007, was clearly comfortable with her decision. She walked into her farewell news conference wearing a burnt orange blouse and flashed a “hook ‘em horns” sign for television cameras.
She smiled several times, never shed a tear and stayed around for a long time afterward to answer more questions.
“I feel very much at peace,” Goestenkors said.
As Mechelle Voepel of ESPN.com explained, Goestenkoers simply couldn’t get UT up to the level of its Big 12 conference rivals:
Once at Texas, Goestenkors was facing three conference foes that would go to the Final Four during her first four years in Austin: Baylor, Oklahoma (twice) and Texas A&M, which won last season’s NCAA title. At least one of those schools is favored to go again this year, and all three are into the second round.
UT’s last trip to the Final Four was in 2003 under head coach Jody Conradt, who led the Lady Longhorns from 1976-2005, creating what had been a dominant program until her final seasons.
Voepel and the Statesman’s Golden both said one of Goestenkoers’ most pressing problems was in-state recruiting–she came into Austin from Duke with no Texans on her coaching staff, and therefore no one who was clued in to the high school and AAU coaches. As Golden pointed out, both Baylor star Brittney Griner and key players on last year’s title-winning Texas A&M team were Texas natives.
But Voepel, who has covered women’s college basketball since 1984, was also not surprised. During an interview with Goestenkoers last month, Voepel recalled, the UT coach struck a tone of perseverance, while optimistically predicting that her 2012-13 squad would do better if the players could stay healthy:
All that actually was true. The problem was, it sounded like she was trying to talk herself into something her heart didn’t really believe.
Having known Goestenkors for 17 years, I couldn’t help but think while listening to her, “Do you really want to put yourself through this for another season?”
At the press conference, Goestenkoers said she would continue to reside in Austin, as is suggested in this tweet:
Thank you, Texas, for five wonderful years. I’m not leaving Texas, I’m leaving basketball. My heart is telling me to take a break.
— Gail Goestenkors (@TexasCoachG) March 19, 2012