Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale, who led the Sooners to three women’s finals and won six Big 12 titles in the regular season, announced her retirement on Wednesday.
“Being the head coach at the University of Oklahoma has been the privilege of my life,” Coale said in a statement released by the university. “… I am grateful to my players for training them. This is a gift I have never taken lightly and a joy like no other I have ever known. I want them to know that they share left behind by myself and I am better for it. “
Coale, 56, has been the Sooners’ coach since the 1996/97 season, leading OU to four conference tournament titles. The team, which mainly used a seven-player rotation, finished between 12 and 12 this season.
“It’s never easy to leave no matter how great something you’re running to because there’s always something left behind. It’s hard to leave these players,” said Coale, a native of tiny Healdton, Oklahoma. “This seasoned group of gritty competitors who built their wings in the fiercest winds have fought their way to the team’s holiness. This season will always be one that I care about. But that’s the trick in the sport and that great gift from the team – it penetrates you and never goes away. luck, luck, luck for me. “
Coale, who led Oklahoma to 19 NCAA tournament games, had an overall record of 512-293 with the Sooners. The four-time Big 12 coach of the year made the Final Four in 2002, 2009, and 2010.
She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.
Sherri Coale, one of the most successful and impactful head coaches in the history of the University of Oklahoma, has announced her resignation after 25 years at the helm of the OU women’s basketball program.https://t.co/On9P3YvXQn pic.twitter.com/U6LQxZVzln
– Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_WBBall) March 17, 2021
“Sherri Coale has encouraged everyone from players to their peers to ‘leave your story better than you found it,” “Sporting Director Joe Castiglione said in a statement. “She gave her talk. Her transformative influence on women’s basketball at OU, which in turn inspired generations of young girls in our state to practice the sport, is hard to measure. There are certainly milestones, from Hall of Fame inductions to to Final Fours on conference titles for All-Americans and beyond, but it was best remembered raising the profile of the program to the elite of the nation. “
In August, Coale apologized after some ex-black players wrote on social media that there was an atmosphere of racist insensitivity to their programming.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been proud of the work I’ve done in court and the dedication to the personal growth of the women I’ve been responsible for leading,” said Coale, who is white, as part of her apology in August . “Although I always intended to express my concern for others, it is clear that there have been moments when my intention was not in line with my impact – I sincerely apologize for that.”
The Sooners had a 19-year streak of NCAA tournament appearances that ended in 2019 after finishing 8-22.
Coale graduated from Oklahoma Christian University before starting her coaching career.
She was hired as a 31-year-old coach at Norman High School in 1996, where she won two State 6A championships and played between 147 and 40 from 1989-1996.
It then took over in Oklahoma, and the Sooners got six Big 12 Player of the Year on their watch. She also produced 14 WNBA draft selections, including six selection rounds.
“I got this dream job in April 1996,” said Coale. “As a native of Oklahoma, I was pretty sure I died and went to Heaven.” While the job wouldn’t be for the faint of heart, I just wanted to build a program that this great state and famous institution could be proud of. 25 years later, I still can’t believe that Oklahoma women’s basketball took me over. ”
Oklahoma announced in 1990 that it would end its women’s basketball program due to low attendance and poor results during the tenure of coach Valerie Goodwin-Colbert, who played between 32 and 51 from 1987 to 1990. This despite the fact that the Sooners had been classified nationally and went to the NCAA tournament in 1986.
The decision was heavily criticized nationwide and reversed eight days later. After three seasons under Gary Hudson (39-45) and three under Burl Plunkett (52-36, including an NCAA tournament appearance in 1995), Coale was discontinued. She led Oklahoma to the women’s first Final Four in her sixth season and was unbeaten in the 2002 national championship game behind star guard Stacey Dales against UConn.
Other top players battling for Coale included Courtney Paris, the leading rebounder of the NCAA career, the only Division I player to exceed 2,000 rebounds (2,034 from 2005 to 2009). Paris played 10 seasons in the WNBA, won a championship with Seattle in 2018 and worked for Coale in Oklahoma last season. Another former OU star among Coale, Danielle Robinson is currently a guard at the Indiana Fever.
Coale’s son Colton has been with her staff since 2015, including the last two seasons as an assistant coach.
Sherri Coale also served as the head coach for USA basketball and led the women’s national team to gold medal at the 2013 World University Games.
ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.