Women's Hoops Blog

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Thursday, February 18, 2010

You've got to love those random WNBA/NCAA women's basketball references that AREN'T denigrating. From Robert Seidman at TVByTheNumbers:
FOX has a streak of American Idol winning every single half hour versus its competition for six years. That’s better than the women’s UCONN basketball team and last night FOX had an easier time with NBC than UCONN had with Oklahoma on Monday night.
Actually, we know that Oklahoma gave UConn more of a fight than most. It was an entertaing (and VERY pink) game to watch. And reaffirmed my appreciation for the coaching job Coale's doing.

Couple of post-game quotes that caught my attention:
“We came out here 10 years ago as a favor to Sherri,” he said. “We were trying to accomplish two things, let Stacy (Hansmeyer) and Paige (Sauer) play where they grew up and show everybody in Norman what big-time basketball looks like. Now, we come out here and they show us what big-time basketball looks like. They’ve come a long ways. I’m happy for them.
"We had 10,713 people here,” Coale said, rattling off the attendance figure from that first time the Huskies came to town, which is forever fixed in her brain, "and at that time, they came to watch Connecticut.”

She paused.

"The difference now is they came to watch Oklahoma.
and finally, from a CT writer:
How often do you drive across a college campus and pass a football stadium which seats 82,112 fans to watch a team that has won seven national championships, then pass a 1,000-seat softball stadium built for a team that has been to five Women’s College World Series?

And then you get to the basketball arena where 11,000-plus fans are screaming for a team that made it to the Final Four last year. Cheering. Booing.

There was a sign on press row, by the way, that warned reporters there would be pyrotechnics used in the pregame introductions and that it might be a good idea to temporarily relocate.

Oh, my God. Sorry. But it was awesome.
Just a reminder that building a good-to-great program requires a lot of pieces coming together. At the heart? A quality coach who goes above and beyond even after the program has reached some sort of "peak." That's always been the the truth, no matter the size or Division of the program. A little Coale flashback:
Last year, Oklahoma ranked 4th in Division I attendance, averaging 10,437 fans a game. But, when Sherri Coale arrived in 1996, she inherited 200 a game. “It was a dual problem, in all honesty,” said Coale. “The product we had wasn’t very good and there wasn’t a lot of publicity regarding it. The very first thing that we did was to try and recruit great kids and get them to play really, really hard and be something that people on our campus could be really proud of.”

“Then I said ‘yes’ to every single speaking engagement. Rotary Club, Lions Club, seven o’clock in the morning, at the noon hour, dinner at the Chamber of Commerce. If they would give me the floor, I would talk. I just tried to get the word out that ‘this is what we’re doing, this is what we’re trying to build, this is our mission, this is our vision.’ Tried to sell people on that, get them excited about that and to maybe think about sharing ownership in that with us.”

It quickly became a grassroots effort. “People would say to the people they sat by at church, ‘Hey, have you been to an Oklahoma women’s basketball game? We went last week and we had the most fun! Why don’t you come with us?’ I meet so many young people who say, ‘I had never, ever watched a women’s basketball game in my life. We went and we’ve been season ticket holders ever since.’”

One of the first promotions was an “Elementary School Day.” The school that had the greatest percentage of attendees won a computer, earning the Sooners a loyal following of both students and principals. Seeking to involve women business and community leaders, 2003 saw the charter of the “Sooner Stilettos.” Its members “recognize the quality and the discipline and the work ethic that these players possess,” noted Coale, “and the ability to be part of a team. Which is, by the way, the number one sought-after skill in corporate America right now. They realize all that, and they want these kids [as post-college employees].

Not to mention their ability to relate because those professional women have fought and scratched and clawed on their own court to get where they are.”