ATLANTA, GA --Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair is among the nation’s top women’s college basketball coaches in contention for the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Wednesday.
Blair is joined by Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma, Duke’s Gail Goestenkors and Tennessee’s Pat Summitt on the final ballot. The Naismith Award is the most prestigious national award presented annually to the men’s and women’s college basketball coaches of the year. The winner will be named at the Naismith Awards banquet on April 5 in Atlanta.
Finalists were chosen through a vote by the Atlanta Tipoff Club’s Board of Selectors, who narrowed the midseason list of 25 candidates down to the final four. The Board, which is comprised of leading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country, based its criteria on coaching performances this season.
“This year’s finalists are all the more impressive because of the success they have achieved over time,” said Gary Stokan, Atlanta Tipoff Club President. “To win consistently and with class is all the more impressive, and each one is deserving of the Naismith Award.”
Blair was named Big 12 Coach of the Year while leading Texas A&M to its first-ever Big 12 Conference championship crown with a program-best 13-3 conference record. The Aggies compiled their first undefeated season at home in the 33-year history of the program with a 16-0 record at Reed Arena. A&M (24-6) posted back-to-back 20-win campaigns for the first time since the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons. They recently advanced to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and fourth overall in school history. The Aggies earned a program-best No. 4 seed in the Dallas Regional. A&M has been ranked in both national polls a school-record 19-straight weeks and received a program-best No. 10 national ranking on Nov. 28, 2006.
Blair, a Dallas native, previously was named Southland Conference Coach of the Year five times while the head coach at Stephen F. Austin (1985-93). His Big 12 Coach of the Year honor was his first at a BCS member school after a successful 10-year career at Arkansas (1993-03) of the Southeastern Conference. He led the Razorbacks to the NCAA Final Four in 1998. He is one of only four coaches in NCAA history to take three different schools (SFA, Arkansas and A&M) to the NCAA Tournament including Rutgers’ C. Vivian Stringer, Ohio State’s Jim Foster and former great Marianne Stanley who won three national championships at Old Dominion.
Duke head coach Gail Goestenkors, in her 15th season, has led the top-ranked Blue Devils to a 30-1 overall and 14-0 ACC mark, while claiming ACC Coach of the Year honors for the seventh time of her career. Goestenkors guided Duke to a school-best start for wins (30-0) as the Blue Devils became the 14th team in NCAA history to go undefeated in the regular season. The mark set a new NCAA record for consecutive 30-win seasons with seven, all while replacing the top three players from a year ago. Goestenkors owns a career 76.4 ACC win percentage, which is the best all-time in ACC history, and looks to lead Duke to its fifth NCAA Final Four appearance and third title game. She won the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award in 2003.
For the seventh time of her career, Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt was named SEC Coach of the Year. In her 33rd season at the helm of the Lady Vols, Summitt has amassed 940 wins – more than any other Division I coach in the history of men’s or women’s college basketball. She also has six NCAA titles, seven NCAA Coach of the Year Awards, 16 NCAA Final Four appearances on her resume and has coached 19 Kodak All-Americans during her tenure in Knoxville. Summitt won the inaugural Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award in 1987 then went on to claim four more honors (1989, 1994, 1998 and 2004) – the most among all women’s college coaches all-time.
Under Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies (29-3) claimed their 15th Big East Conference Championship and their sixth overall undefeated conference season (16-0) and first since the 2002-03 season. UConn earned its 19th consecutive invitation to the NCAA Championship and returns as the No. 1 seed for the 10th time overall and the first time since 2003. Connecticut was ranked as high as No. 2 nationally and has been in the top 10 all season long. The Huskies are one win shy of hitting the 30-win plateau for the 12th time in program history. In 22 seasons, Auriemma has compiled a 618-119 record, becoming the fastest coach to earn 600 wins, and has guided the Huskies to five national championships (1995, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004). He has won the prestigious Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year Award four times in 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2002.
The Atlanta Tipoff Club, an Atlanta Sports Council property, is committed to promoting the game of basketball and recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of those who make the game so exciting. The Atlanta Tipoff Club has presented the Naismith Trophy since UCLA’s Lew Alcindor first won the award in 1969. Indiana’s Bob Knight and Tennessee’s Pat Summitt became the first men’s and women’s college coaches respectively to win the award in 1987. Last year, North Carolina’s Sylvia Hatchell and Villanova’s Jay Wright were selected.
The Naismith Awards program has become an emblem of excellence for the game, recognizing the men’s and women’s college players, coaches and officials of the year, and the male and female high school players of the year. For more information, visit www.naismithawards.com.