One of my favorite coaches, Long-time Texas A & M Coach Gary Blair is retiring at the end of this season. This women’s basketball coaching legend has been part of the women’s game since the 1970s. He started at Dallas Oak High School, where he coached their Women’s basketball team to a state championship in 1977. In response to a question from ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel in a retirement announcement press conference on Thursday, Blair said. “I was a product of Title IX, and I got the job mainly because no one else wanted it…best decision I ever made at that time was going into women’s athletics, and then the best decision was in ’77 after we won a state championship they offered me the head baseball job, and a coordinator in football and I turned it down to stay with the women. Best move I ever made.” In 1977 the women’s game was in its infancy. Title IX had just passed in 1972. Blair would stick with the women’s game for the next 44 years. (Gary Blair to retire from legendary career after 2021-22 season – The Next (thenexthoops.com)
Gary Blair Retiring From College Hoops
Stephen F. Austin
Blair’s first women’s college basketball head coaching job was at Stephen F Austin University in Texas. At SFA, from 1985-1993, Blair compiled a record of 210-43. Incredibly, He won seven straight conference championships in just eight seasons at the school. In addition, his team appeared in six NCAA tournaments. SFA was 12th in attendance during his time there. Blair is a member of the Ladyjack Hall of Fame for his contributions. As a result of his great start, he became the head coach at Arkansas University.
At Arkansas, Blair hit his stride quickly. He coached the Razorbacks from (93-2003); this included an NCAA tournament trip in just his second season and an improbable final four run. The 97-98 Razorbacks were a nine seed with an (18-10) record overall. Yet, in the NCAA tournament, they made a run to the final four. The Razorbacks were handed some good fortune when 16th seed Harvard took down number one Stanford! This upset allowed Arkansas to win their second-round game convincingly. Then they moved on to face 5th seeded Kansas. Kansas had a 21-8 record that season and should have been the superior team. Yet, the Razorbacks came away with another convincing victory. As a result, they had to face 2nd seeded Duke, who gave them all they could handle, but they won 77-72 to advance to the final four, losing to the eventual champion Tennessee. Blair would spend five more seasons at Arkansas, reaching the NCAA tournament every season.
Thanks to his great success at Arkansas, in 2003, Blair was offered the head coaching job at Texas A & M. Blair has been with the Aggies ever since. Texas A&M was the Big 12’s worst team at the time. This move was a massive leap of faith for Blair, and he began to turn the team around. By year three, he made the NCAA tournament a number 6 seed; this is the only time his team would lose in the tournament’s first round. In 2011, the Aggies went on a magical run led by star center Danielle Adams. Texas A&M was a good team during that regular season, but they were not the best in their conference. There was someone named Brittney Griner. Griner was a star for Baylor; in the regular season and conference tournament, Baylor beat Texas A&M, but the story would not end there. In the regional final, the Aggies had to play Baylor once again. This was their third meeting of the season, and A & M took them down with a defensive masterclass 58-46. This win brought them to their first final four, where they would eventually beat one seed Notre Dame and win the championship.
Since 2011, the Aggies have been a tournament team every year and are ranked 23rd, heading into Blair’s final journey. They were picked second in their conference this season. The SEC is one of the toughest conferences in the country; therefore, being selected second is an excellent accomplishment. This year’s team has dynamic guard Jordan Nixon. Last year in the tournament, Nixon hit a buzzer-beater against Iowa State to send the Aggies to sweet sixteen (Jordan Nixon’s overtime buzzer-beater sends Texas A&M to Sweet 16 | NCAA.com). There is excitement surrounding this year’s team, and now they are playing for something more. I would love to see Coach Blair go out on top with another great season this year.
Impact On The Game
Gary Blair is one of the most influential women’s college basketball coaches of all time. He has over 500 wins in his career and has brought three different schools to the NCAA tournament. Starting in the 1980’s Blair helped get the Women’s game off the ground by publicizing his team (SFA) and making waves throughout the country. Gary Blair’s coaching tree is evident at Texas, where his long-time assistant Vic Schafer is now the head coach. Blair is a role model for the women’s game and coaches everywhere; his departure will leave a massive void at the end of the season; the game of basketball will miss this great hall of fame coach.
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