Big shoes to fill
Goestenkors must replace a living legend at Texas
Posted: Thursday April 5, 2007 2:47PM; Updated: Thursday April 5, 2007 3:28PM
Gail Goestenkors spent 15 years preparing Duke athletes for the next phase of their lives, teaching them how to overcome challenges on and off the court. Now, she is moving on to her next challenge.
Texas introduced Goestenkors as its third women's basketball coach on Thursday, replacing Jody Conradt, a living legend who retired after a 38-year career which included 31 seasons with the Longhorns.
The move to Austin may include more than just a change of address for Goestenkors, though. There's no doubt she has done a great job of elevating Duke to elite status. In recent years, the Blue Devils have surpassed the Longhorns' success, reaching the Final Four four times and the title game twice. Duke's last trip was in 2006. Texas hasn't won a national title since 1986 and hasn't been to the Final Four since 2003.
Texas fans have filled their message boards with praise for the hiring of their newest coach. They're already expecting to see the Longhorns back in the NCAA tournament after a two-year absence, and are perhaps even pricing tickets to Tampa -- the site of next year's Final Four -- already.
Still, Conradt built Texas into one of the premier programs in the country and left one of the best jobs in the game. It's a high-profile position and the eyes of Texas -- a whole lot of them -- are now baring down on Goestenkors.
That may make filling Conradt's shoes off the court tougher than on it. The expectations in Texas are different than just about anywhere. In Conradt's quest to grow her program and sport, she became one of the most visible and involved coaches in the nation.
No matter how big her program got, that didn't change. Just days after announcing her retirement, Conradt attended an NCAA tournament game held on the Longhorns' home court. Although she sat in one of the arena's suites, Conradt didn't slip in the back door. Instead, she worked her way through the stands, graciously stopping to chat with approaching fans.
Such gestures are nothing new for Texas fans. For years, Conradt has allowed them an incredible amount of access. Some might say too much.
She opened Texas practices to the public -- something that was a better idea during a time when everyone's business wasn't immediately posted on some Web site or e-mailed to the masses.
Even the media has been spoiled by Conradt's warmth, wit and knack for telling a good story. She always seemed to know just what a reporter wanted and she was always willing to give it to them.
At the end of each game, Conradt took care of her post-game radio duties, then proceeded to the post-game press conferences -- both of which were piped through the Erwin Center for the fans to hear.
The access didn't stop there. Once their media obligations were over, Conradt and her players met with the Fast Break Club, made up of season-ticket holders.
1 of 2