One of life’s greatest pleasures is when you find the place you were destined to be.
Growing up as a Jersey girl, I would have never guessed Dallas would capture my heart and become my home, but it did just that.
When I transferred from Old Dominion to SMU and joined the women’s basketball program in 1981, I never left.
I had no reason to.
I found my home, and it’s where I planted my roots as a player, assistant coach, and ultimately head coach when I took over in 1991.
When I retired in 2016, having spent 35 years in this program, I firmly believed my story at SMU was complete.
I made a lifetime of memories in those 35 years that I’ll cherish forever. I shut the lights off in my coach’s office for the final time, knowing I did everything I could to uplift this program and positively impact the individuals that were a part of it.
But there was still one more chapter left in my career when Rick [Hart] called me and told me I was being inducted into the 2023 SMU Hall of Fame.
To say I was grateful would be an understatement.
But my initial thought was that this induction is not about me.
It’s about all the spectacular coaches, staff, and players that have been associated with the SMU women’s basketball team in the 25 years I was blessed to be called head coach.
I knew early on in life that I’d never be sitting behind a desk in a traditional 9-5.
That was never going to be me.
Now, sitting in a coach’s office watching film is another story, and that had my name written all over it.
After I completed my last season of eligibility at SMU, I couldn’t wait to get into the coaching world. I started out as a part-time assistant for nine months, then got hired as a full-time assistant under my mentor Welton Brown.
You can’t talk about my coaching career without mentioning Welton, and I’ll forever be indebted to him for his guidance and leadership.
When Welton retired, I was named the head coach of SMU for the ‘91-92 season after serving eight years on staff as an assistant coach.
I wasn’t a week into the position when I got my first taste of the broad shoulders that are required to be a head coach.
Without naming names, I was speaking with someone about how excited I was to turn this into a winning program, and I’ll never forget what this individual said.
“You won’t win 17 games.”
As if I didn’t have a fire under me before.
I carried that comment with me as motivation throughout the entirety of my career.
For what it’s worth, I finished my first season with a winning record.
I’ve always been partial to hiring former players to join me as assistants on my staff. That’s never been a mandatory requirement. I’ve had plenty of terrific coaches that didn’t attend SMU, but it’s always special when you’re surrounded by people that have been in the program and know how unique this university is.
It makes it even more impactful when you’re able to watch them grow and create an endless amount of memories as we travel the country together.
One such memory I’ll cherish forever happened during the final game of the 1999 WAC Tournament. We were set to face Colorado State, who was a top-5 team that season.
Becky Hammon was on that Colorado State team, and they just bulldozed teams all season long. They beat us earlier in the year pretty handedly.
The Rams were the better team on paper, but we got the best of them on that day in Vegas to proclaim ourselves as conference tournament champions.
What was most gratifying was seeing how excited the girls were when no one gave us a chance to keep it within 15 points, let alone win the game.
In addition, when President Turner put that championship cap on, and I saw the smile on his face, it became abundantly clear that this was much more than a basketball game.
Our team brought so much joy to countless fans, relatives, and the entire university that day.
And two of those special fans were my parents.
Thankfully, my dad was able to pull my mom away from the slot machines at the casino to watch us play that day. Getting to share that experience with them is definitely one of the greatest moments of my coaching career.
I have never really enjoyed talking about myself, but I have always loved talking about my team. I’m beyond proud of everything I’ve accomplished here at SMU, but I never considered them my personal achievements and accolades.
Any amount of success I’m credited for was achieved as a team. That’s why this honor is so difficult for me to process. It has my name on it, but I wouldn’t be here without so many different people.
In my 25 years as head coach, I only had a total of five assistants. I want people to know how important relationships are to me. That is why I always value the longevity and consistency of our coaching staff.
If memory serves me right, we were the second longest-tenured coaching staff in the country when I retired in 2016.
When I step foot on the podium in September and receive the most prestigious and surreal honor of my life, I share that stage with those coaches, players, trainers, coordinators, and so many more that have impacted this program.
The Hall of Fame induction will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of my career, but it’s never been about me.
It’s so much bigger than me.
I’m just appreciative that I had the opportunity to forge the kind of relationships with the players and coaching staff that helped elevate SMU women’s basketball, and for people to understand what I’ve known since I stepped foot on campus in 1981.
SMU is special, and above all else, will always be home.
The inductees will be recognized at the annual Hall of Fame Banquet and Induction Ceremony on Friday, September 15 in Armstrong Fieldhouse on the SMU Campus. For additional information or for tickets to the SMU Athletics Hall of Fame Banquet, click here.