Texas Tech coach Sharp to resign at year's end

Updated: February 26, 2006, 12:29 AM ET
Associated Press

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Hall of Fame coach Marsha Sharp, who won an NCAA title at Texas Tech and turned the school into a perennial national power, said Friday she is resigning at the end of the season.

Decision Has Nothing
To Do With Health
Marsha Sharp's decision to resign has nothing to do with her health and in fact was something she discussed even before the season began, a source close to the program told ESPN's Nancy Lieberman.

Sharp, who on Friday announced she would resign at season's end, underwent an angiogram in late January to alleviate what was believed to be blockage in a single coronary artery. But the procedure revealed no blockage. No other abnormalities were found in extensive medical tests and Sharp soon returned to the sideline after missing one game.

According to the source, Sharp met with Texas Tech Athletic Director Gerald Myers prior to the season.

"She said she was tired and thought that this would probably be her last season," the source said.

School officials initially planned on formally announcing Sharp's decision to resign next week, perhaps in conjunction with the Lady Raiders' final home game of the season on Wednesday. But rumors began circulating and, after The Dallas Morning News said it would report the story in Saturday's edition, Tech officials scheduled Friday's news conference.

"I knew the time was right for me,'' Sharp told the Associated Press on Friday, adding that her health is fine and she's "good to go.''

The 53-year-old Sharp made the announcement near the end of a season marked by health problems and Tech dropping out of the Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade.

"I knew the time was right for me," said Sharp, who said her health is fine and she's "good to go."

During 24 seasons in Lubbock, Sharp has taken Tech to 16 straight NCAA appearances, reaching the Elite Eight four times and the Sweet 16 seven times. The Lady Raiders won the national title in 1993 when Sheryl Swoopes led them to a 31-3 record.

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair, a Tech alum, said Sharp was one of the first to show the women's game could gain widespread appeal and be marketed well.

"She built a dynasty at Texas Tech and did it with class, integrity, and teams that were well schooled on fundamentals," he said. "Good ladies can finish first."

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003, Sharp hasn't had a losing season. This year could be different, though. Tech (13-12, 8-6 Big 12) has two conference games remaining before the Big 12 tournament in Dallas.

Sharp's final home game will be Wednesday against No. 9 Oklahoma. She is currently 570-187 overall at Texas Tech.

"She's been a leader in women's basketball for a long time," Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said. "It's a close to a great era."

Myers said the school -- which later released a statement clarifying that Sharp was resigning, not retiring -- will begin a national search to replace Sharp after the season, but didn't rule out current assistants. Sharp will continue to work with the school as associate athletic director of special projects and in that capacity "she's going to raise us some money," Myers said.

Sharp said she was staying in Lubbock but wouldn't rule out returning to coach a national or Olympic team.

"I'm not going to close any doors," she said.

Other Big 12 coaches said Sharp will be missed.

"Marsha is one of those solid people in our profession who has really been instrumental in the growth of our sport," Texas coach Jody Conradt said.

Sharp "represents everything that is good about women's basketball," said Sooner coach Sherri Coale. That couldn't help but rub off onto her program, she said.

"Everything about Texas Tech women's basketball is class," she said. "They just emanate class."

She said her non-life-threatening heart problem in January was "significant enough to get my attention," but her decision to leave was made before then.

Sharp said she told Tech administrators in October that this would be her last year and planned to make the announcement after the season, but media reports of her departure forced her to do it Friday.

Appearing to get choked up, Sharp said it was difficult explaining her decision to players Friday.

"I think, as you would expect, they're struggling just a little bit," she said. "There was some emotion from my side too."

Some players said they first heard about Sharp's plans from crawls on sports shows.

"It's kind of crazy when everyone is calling you saying 'what's happening?' and you have no idea," said Chesley Dabbs, who's been out for the season after knee surgery. "It's definitely going to take a toll on us the next couple of games."

Tech dropped out of the Top 25 in early December after 248 consecutive weeks beginning Jan. 12, 1992.

On Jan. 18, Sharp was taken to a hospital in Norman after suffering nausea and shortness of breath while participating in a short game-day shooting session before the Lady Raiders lost to Oklahoma.

Eight days later, she underwent an angiogram after tests suggested she had blockage in a coronary artery. The angiogram found no problem with the arteries or any heart damage, the university said in a release. Instead it found a muscle bridge or band over the left coronary artery that led to initial abnormal test results.

Sharp grew up in Tulia, a small ranching and farming community in the Panhandle, where she played three-on-three basketball. In 1974, she graduated from Wayland Baptist University in Plainview and went on to coach at Lockney High School for six years.

She came to Tech as an assistant in 1981 and took over as head coach the next season.

At her final home game, Myers said, the capacity of United Spirit Arena will be tested.

"We built this gym for 15,000," he said. "I don't think it will be big enough."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press