Today, it was announced that iconic Women’s Basketball Coach, Gary Blair, had been named as one of only six inductees to the Class of 2012 in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. The announcement came today at the halftime of the USA versus Brazil game at the Verizon Center, in Washington, DC.
The honor comes as no surprise to anyone except Blair, who seemed surprised and humbled in learning of the award. “The honor is humbling, and I feel I should be thanking players, assistant coaches and administrators for their belief in me instead of receiving accolades for what I consider a team award,” Blair said.
ESPNW reports that Blair joins only one other coach, Jim Foster of Ohio State, as the coaches to be inducted in the 15th class of inductees. Four players, including former Texas A&M, Houston Comets and Olympics Women’s Team Head Coach Peggie Gillom-Granderson, Jen Rizzotti, Annette Smith-Knight and Sue Wicks will join Blair and Foster as inductees on November 13, in Waco, Texas. Poignantly, the site of the induction will be “at the 2012 State Farm Tip-Off Classic game between Baylor and Kentucky in Waco, Texas,” ESPNW reports.
“So many of them have helped shape my life in coaching as mentors, role models and players I have had an opportunity to coach or compete against. Their legacy, the love of the game and the love of my players keeps me driven. I am thankful to continue to Build Champions here at Texas A&M,” said Blair today.
In fact, the name plaque on the head coach’s desk at the Cox-McFerrin Building located within Reed Arena on Texas A&M’s west campus says, “Gary Blair: Building Champions.” It’s as precious and priceless a daily reminder as the “+” sign he makes on the back of his left hand before each game the TAMU women’s basketball team plays.
In the past two years, Gary Blair has achieved some exceedingly significant milestones.
In March, 2012, under Gary Blair’s leadership the Aggie women’s basketball team made it to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, before being defeated by the Maryland Terrapins. This achievement is especially relevant because the 2011-2012 Aggie women were minus WNBA player and star shooter, Danielle Adams, and WNBA draftee, iconic point guard, Sidney Colson, and (now) Mississippi State Director of Operations Maryann Baker on defense.
In January, 2012, Coach Blair coached his 200th win as Aggie head coach.
In November, 2011, Coach Blair secured his 600th win, as a head coach, on the road.
Also, in November, 2011, Coach Blair signing what was nationally identified as the #2 signing class in the nation, and the fourth consecutive “year that the Texas A&M women’s basketball program landed one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, with the signing of six top-rated high school prospects.” The new names to watch on the court in the 2012-2013 season include Chelsea Jennings, Jordan Jones, Curtyce Knox, Peyton Little, Courtney Walker, and Courtney Williams. Dan Olson of The Collegiate Girls Basketball Report said, “Gary Blair and his staff are again wizards.”
In April, 2011, the Texas A&M Women’s Basketball team won the NCAA Championship by defeating the University of Notre Dame by the score of 76 to 70, and Gary Blair kept his promise to his team to do a sideline dance with them known as the “Dougie.”
That action alone is indicative of Blair’s good sense of humor, and his good humor doesn’t stop there. This is the same Coach Gary Blair who will go up and down the stairs of Reed Arena throwing candy to early arrivals among the fans, who will attend the men’s basketball team home games and give away tickets to upcoming women’s games and ask the crowd to “bring a friend.”
Blair’s indefatigable ability to discuss the merits of his staff and team have caused one pundit to note, “if there was a caterpillar on the sidewalk, Coach Blair would try to talk it into coming to the women’s basketball game!” He doesn’t have to talk to caterpillars, though. He has a legion of fans across the country, among his former players from South Oak Cliff High School Dallas High Schools, to colleges including Louisiana Tech, Stephen F. Austin, and Arkansas, to former players in his tenure thus far at Texas A&M.
In his spare time, Coach Gary Blair hosts a Celebrity Golf Classic to raise funds for Special Olympics Texas and other charities. And there’s rarely a relevant charitable event for children’s causes in Bryan-College Station that Blair is not attending, together with many of his players and coaches who possess that same initiative and spirit of giving back.
Many changes have happened in the past 90 days for the Texas A&M Women’s Basketball program. Blair’s Former Associate Head Coach Vic Schaefer accepted the position as Head Coach at Mississippi State University and will now be a rival against his best friend and former boss. Former Assistant Head Coach Johnnie Griffin accepted Coach Schaefer’s invitation to join his Mississippi State coaching staff. Former Blair point guard Aquanesia Franklin also joined Schaefer’s staff.
Amy Wright was hired by Blair as Assistant Coach last month, bringing her experience as a former SEC played and academic honor roll member there and all-time leader in assists at Arkansas, where she once played ball for Coach Blair. Bob Starkey was seen by most as a “slam dunk hire” away from LSU as Assistant Women’s Coach by Blair in April this year. Some people use the expression “he wrote the book” far too often, but in Starkey’s case, he really did, several of them in fact. Starkey has authored several basketball books and “runs his own coaching and player online blog (http://hoopthoughts.blogspot.com).”
The only thing left to do between now and the induction ceremony is for the Women’s Rowdies, the heart and soul of the student body who supports the women’s basketball program to slightly alter the corefoam head of Gary Blair to emblazon “2012 Inductee, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame” somewhere on the giant poster board.
The first game of the 2012-2103 season for the newest members of the SEC will be Friday, November 9th at Louisville, Kentucky, followed by Penn State (Nov. 14), and UConn (Nov. 18). Welcome to the SEC and Welcome to the end of soft openers for the women’s basketball program, long a thing of the past anyway.
Coach Gary Blair, then, as an official new inductee of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame is being celebrated as coach, leader, mentor, motivator, recruiter, marketer, team captain and basketball champion. It’s about time, for Texas A&M, and Blair.