Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mike Siroky's SEC Commentary: Legendary Georgia Coach Andy Landers Retires

By Mike Siroky
In an ever-changing world of women’s college basketball, Andy landers was a rock.

He was the longest-serving SEC coach and had the most NCAA appearances of active coaches, plus the most appearance (by number of times) of any SEC coach. He was in the first NCAA tournament.

The ‘Dawgs are No. 2 nationally in NCAA Tournament appearances (31, second only to Tennessee) and are also second nationally in weeks ranked by the Associated Press (522).

 Georgia also is one of only three Division I basketball programs to post a winning record every season since women¹s athletics came into the NCAA and the conference with the 1981-82 season.

Now he is retired, after 36 seasons.

 He leaves a team loaded with young talent, the freshmen and sophomore classes among the most-productive in conference and therefore the country.

Georgia did not accept a WNIT bid when the field was announced Monday night.

Landers pulled the trigger on the cusp of the NCAA tournament, with a team not worthy of an entry, so as to not distract from the tournament and to give his university time to search for a new coach while all candidates are gathering at the WBCA convention during the Final Four next month in Tampa.

 His is a marvelous legacy not likely to be ever repeated in the pressurized world of winning is everything.

He existed for years as not even the best male coach in the league, but he persevered.

As he got his start in the state of Tennessee, his was a natural rivalry with Pat Head Summitt at Tennessee.

Landers is the last of the coaches who have been at their institutions since the NCAA took in the women’s game, and with it recognition by the Southeastern Conference.

He had come to Georgia from Roane State community College in Tennessee.

Landers got his start as a 26-year-old.

Even before that, his history and natural combativeness with the Pat Head teams had made him a national footprint.

When Van Chancellor, Joe Ciampi and Jim Foster came and went, he remained steady for his Dawgs, creating All-Americans and Hall-of-Famers like Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain, which meant he out-recruited the aforementioned coaches for those players.

Among the other skills he exhibited through his seasons was the ability to adjust to reacting to written and broadcast criticism, mellowing after severe run-ins with reporters in the early years.

During an SEC tournament, he once had officials relocate the Tennessee broadcasters during a game as he feared they were too close to his bench and somehow were signaling the Lady Vols.

 It would be no surprise if he now becomes a part-time broadcaster, as his analytical skills have always be on point.

 He has been the only full-time women’s basketball coach at Georgia. His legacy goes back to the era of part-timers.

 "I feel blessed to have had the privilege of working at the University of Georgia for the past 36 years," Landers said.

 "Athens is a wonderful community where I have raised my family and had the unwavering support of my wife Pam, my daughter Andrea and my son Drew.

“I appreciate the support of a wonderful Bulldog Nation, our loyal fans and the Fastbreak Club members.

“I owe a special thanks to Coach Vince Dooley (the athletics director) for entrusting me with the challenge of building a successful program 36 years ago and to Greg McGarity for continuing that trust and support.

“A big thank you to Hugh Durham (former men’s coach) for being a young coach's mentor, to (university) presidents Davison, Knapp, Adams and Morehead for their guidance and leadership; to all my former and present staff members and coaches who worked tirelessly to help make the success that we have a reality.

 "But most of all, I want to thank each and every player for committing to the challenge of being the best they could because in so doing they contributed to and established a tradition that fewer than a handful can match.

“They created a program that ranks among the most elite nationwide.

“I want to say once more,” J. Reid Parker, Director of Athletics, said, "Andy has led our women's basketball program on an incredible journey for 36 years, and his Women's Basketball Hall of Fame recognition in 2007 is a testimony to his impact on the world of women's college basketball.
“Andy has poured his heart and soul into our program, and his dedication to the remarkable athletic and academic progress of his student/athletes is sincerely appreciated by everyone associated with UGA."

UGA president Jere W. Morehead said, “"I am very appreciative of the many contributions Andy has made to the University of Georgia. Aside from his remarkable achievements in athletic competition, I am especially thankful for the importance he has placed on the academic achievement of our student-athletes.

“ It is a tremendous accomplishment that every four-year letterwinner Andy has coached has graduated from the University of Georgia. I am grateful for his many years of service to UGA."

Landers’ Georgia journey as full-time head coach was launched on April 24, 1979.

He began to turn a fledgling program into a national participant.

In their first six seasons of intercollegiate play, through 1979, the Lady Bulldogs were a combined 37-85 under four different head coaches who also taught classes at UGA.

 In Landers' second season, Georgia won the 1981 WNIT national title.

 A year later, the Lady Bulldogs played in the first-ever NCAA Tournament.

The following spring, Georgia advanced to the NCAA Final Four for the first time.

Two years after that, the Lady Bulldogs were 1985 NCAA runners-up.

Georgia has traditionally played well in the NCAA bracket, advancing to 20 Sweet 16s, 11 "Elite Eights and five Final Fours (1983, 1985, 1995, 1996 and 1 999).

The first one was especially sweet as they eliminated Tennessee in a Mideast Regional at Notre Dame.

They also finished as NCAA runners-up in 1985 and 1996.

The Lady Bulldogs rank No. 5 in both NCAA Tournament games played (86) and won (55) as well as No. 6 in Final Four appearances.

 Of Georgia's 522 appearances in weekly AP polls, 268 of those featured the Lady Bulldogs in the top 10.

Georgia also has captured seven SEC Championships and four SEC Tournament titles.

With such team accomplishments came numerous individual accolades, all of which he deferred to his players.

Landers was named National Coach of the Year in 1986, 1987, 1996 and 2000.

Three Lady Bulldogs were named National Player of the Year ¬ Katrina McClain in 1987, Saudia Roundtree in 1996 and Kelly Miller in 2000.

Georgia also has produced three National Freshman of the Year award winners, one National Defensive Player of the Year, 31 All-Americans, 16 Freshman All-Americans, four SEC Players of the Year, six SEC Freshmen of the Year, 69 All-SEC performers and 31 Freshman All-SEC selections.

Landers' players have excelled in the classroom as well. When current seniors Krista Donald and Erika Ford receive their degrees in May, all 67 four-year letterwinners under Landers will have received diplomas from the University of Georgia.

Many of Landers' players have pursued professional basketball with great success. Thirty-eight Lady Bulldogs have gone on to play professionally in the U.S., Europe, Asia and South America.

 Headlining that list are McClain and Edwards.

 The duo became teammates at Georgia in the fall of 1983 and went on to be widely regarded as two of women's basketball's greatest players ever.

They also were the backbone of virtually every national team to represent the United States internationally for a decade, combining to win six Olympic Gold Medals.

Edwards is the only basketball player to represent the U.S. in five Olympic Games, and McClain was her teammate for three of those.

Both Edwards and McClain have been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the State of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

On Nov. 29, 2014, Landers earned his 850th victory at Georgia when the Lady Bulldogs defeated Tennessee Tech, ironically his alma mater.

 Landers became just the eighth college basketball coach ¬ men's or women's ¬ to record that many victories at a single NCAA Division I institution, joining Pat Summitt, Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), Dean Smith (North Carolina) and Adolph Rupp (Kentucky).

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