Thursday, January 23, 2003

Texas coach earns 800th victory

AUSTIN, Texas - Texas coach Jody Conradt spent a week dismissing the 800-victory milestone as just another step in the quest for a Big 12 championship. But when it finally happened, she couldn't avoid being caught up in the moment.

Conradt became just the second women's basketball coach to win 800 games, getting there Wednesday night when the 17th-ranked Longhorns beat No. 7 Texas Tech 69-58.

Maybe it was the emotion of greeting dozens of former players who came to see her win. Or maybe it was the bucket of confetti dumped on her head.

Whatever it was, Conradt finally embraced just what it meant to be in the game long enough to win 800 times.

"If there ever was an occasion that was about team, it's this one, because 800 times, young women just like these have gotten on the court and fought for the University of Texas and come out victorious," she said.

Stacy Stephens had 16 of her 20 points in the second half, and Heather Schreiber had 15 points and a career-high 15 rebounds as Texas (12-4, 5-0) snapped Tech's 15-game winning streak and stayed in first place in the conference.

Conradt joined Tennessee's Pat Summitt (802) as the only women's coaches in the 800-victory club. Summitt got in Jan. 14 with a win over DePaul.

The 61-year-old Conradt is 800-262 in 34 seasons, with one national championship. She and Summitt started the season tied at 788 wins.

After the final buzzer sounded, Stephens dumped the water bucket full of confetti on her coach's head, the crowd chanted "Jody, Jody, Jody," and Longhorns players mugged for courtside television cameras.

"Texas Tech is always a formidable foe," said Conradt, who in 1988 got her 500th win in a game against the Lady Raiders. "But this is Texas' night and we're going to celebrate."

Only three Division I men's coaches - North Carolina's Dean Smith, Kentucky's Adolph Rupp and Jim Phelan of Mount St. Mary's - have 800 or more wins. Texas Tech coach Bob Knight is close with 798.

Smith retired in 1997 with a record 879 victories.

Conradt's 800th victory was a tense battle between Big 12 rivals. The Longhorns led for the entire game but didn't have it secured until clutch free-throw shooting in the final minute.

Jia Perkins and Plenette Pierson led Texas Tech (15-2, 4-1) with 16 points each.

Stephens, 1-of-8 from the floor in the first half, hit her first three shots after the break in a scoring outburst that gave the Longhorns a 36-25 lead.

Schreiber, who also had a tough shooting night, made up for it with tenacious rebounding and two key baskets in the final four minutes.

"I kept looking at the score and we were winning, which was the main goal," Schreiber said. "I decided I had to come up with some key plays."

Texas led 54-51 before Schreiber turned around Pierson with a slick spin move in the lane and scored. She followed it with another layup to give the Longhorns a 58-51 cushion with 3:33 to play.

The Lady Raiders, who committed 20 turnovers, had to resort to sending Texas to the foul line in the final minute. The Longhorns hit eight free throws to seal it. Texas also dominated the rebounding, 46-36.

Texas is 10-0 at home.

"This is absolutely phenomenal," said junior guard Jamie Carey, who transferred from Stanford to play for Conradt. "She really is a pioneer for women's basketball."

Conradt started her career in 1969, coaching for free at Sam Houston State in an era when women played 6-on-6 with only two players allowed to play full court.

She moved to Texas in 1976 and quickly turned the Longhorns into a national power. Her 1986 squad was the first undefeated national champion.

In 1997, Conradt was the first women's coach to 700 victories. In 2001, she was the first to work 1,000 games. She was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1998.

"I don't remember a lot of the 800," Conradt said. "I hope that when I decide not to coach anymore that it won't be about number of wins.

"I hope it will be about a little contribution, the same contribution a lot of people made early on to try to provide opportunities for young people."

Conradt also served 10 years as the Texas women's athletic director, ushering the program through an era of expansion. She gave up those duties in April 2001 to concentrate on basketball. The result was the team's first run to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament in 11 years in 2002.

"She's done a lot for women's basketball," Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp said. "I have a lot of respect for her."

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