A recent addition to Marquette's basketball department is women's coach Maria Pares, otherwise known as Sister Maria Pares, Order of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity.
After the Warriors finished 5-20 in their first Division I season last winter under coach Pat Sheily, the Marquette fathers hired Sister Maria, who's 45. She had led the girls' team at Sacred Heart academy in Buffalo to a 13-season record of 229-10, including one unbeaten stretch of seven years. During her spare time she coached the women's team at nearby Canisius College to a 108-39 record for the last five seasons.
"At first I resented all the attention to the nun thing," Sister Maria told The New York Times, "but then I learned to roll with the punches—and the plaudits."
Not unlike the aura surrounding that other enthusiastic and ecclesiastic Maria of Broadway and Hollywood fame, the hills are alive with the sound of musing: "Sports is my talent...my work is my ministry," says the coach. "I used to wear a habit. I got in some trouble. You know, the decorum thing, jumping around and all. Now I don't decorum anything. Every time we see a nun with a habit on, my mother tells me, 'There's a real nun.' I can't separate it—the nun and the coach. I'm one package."
And a formidable one at that. The coach instituted a strenuous regimen of running, shooting and lifting for her players—all "voluntary," of course. Then came longer practices, barked orders, even an occasional mild oath. "Why shouldn't I yell?" she asks. "Certain vulgarity isn't a sin. I'm sure the Lord had his moments."
"She's kind of cocky," says Marquette co-captain Beth Ayers. "In the past it wasn't great to lose, but it was acceptable. This year it's important to win."
For their first game the Warriors came out chanting "Beat Chicago," and they beat Chicago State 66-59. Although Sister Maria has already equaled Marquette's win total of last season, the team continues to struggle, falling to Dayton last Saturday 60-55 for its 11th loss. "There's nothing more exciting than coaching basketball, always adjusting to the other guy's moves, always something new," she says. "Of course, if you don't have the players with the talent, you could be the Guru of Shangri-la and you'll lose every game."
The Guru of Shangri-la? Those Marquette coaches have such a way with words.
THE SIGHS OF TEXAS
To decorate the covers of its basketball programs, No. 1—ranked Texas borrowed the state's antilittering theme, "Don't Mess With Texas," and featured photographs of team members at some of Austin's more scenic spots. But in the process....