NCAA women's coaches Inman, Trakh join select company
Tennessee State's Larry Joe Inman and Mark Trakh of New Mexico State have joined an exclusive club, becoming the ninth and 10th women's basketball coaches to guide at least three different schools to the NCAA Tournament.
Their accomplishments are even more impressive considering both Inman and Trakh were out of the college head coaching ranks not too long ago and pulled off the feat at schools that hadn't been to the tournament in at least two decades.
Trakh has led New Mexico State's women to their first tournament appearance since 1988; Inman has Tennessee State in for the first time since 1995.
''When you go to the NCAA Tournament someplace that hasn't been in a long time, it's very satisfying,'' said Trakh, who also made the tournament with Pepperdine and Southern California. ''When I got here, a lot of my peers said that's too tough a place to win, it's hard to recruit there. But it's happened. We feel we've recruited well. The community's involved.
''It's turned into a real good place for women's basketball.''
As the 16th-seeded team in the Spokane Region, New Mexico State (22-7) plays Saturday at No. 4 Maryland (30-2). Tennessee State (18-12) is 15th seed in the Albany Region and plays Friday at No. 11 Kentucky (23-9).
''I've had some kids who were overachievers and won championships, but I don't know that I can ever remember a group of kids like this group,'' said Inman, who previously coached at Middle Tennessee and Eastern Kentucky. ''They have just been incredible in their attitude about the power to be successful and to overcome the odds. The last few games, especially, they just refused to lose.''
Getting three different schools to the tournament has put them in select company.
Chattanooga's Jim Foster set an NCAA record last year by reaching the tournament with a fourth different school after previously getting there with St. Joseph's, Vanderbilt and Ohio State. Other coaches to earn NCAA bids with at least three schools are Texas A&M's Gary Blair, Fordham's Stephanie Gaitley, Duke's Joanne McCallie, Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer, Patricia Cage-Bibbs, Tom Collen and Marianne Stanley.
Inman made four straight NCAA appearances with Middle Tennessee (1983-86) and got there twice with Eastern Kentucky (1997, 2005). Trakh had made the tournament three times with Pepperdine (2000, 2002 and 2003) and twice with Southern California (2005, 2006).
Trakh resigned from his post at Southern California in 2009. Aside from a six-month stint as an assistant at San Diego State, Trakh spent the next two years away from coaching before taking over New Mexico State in April 2011.
Inman retired in 2008 to help out his wife in the real estate business, but he soon realized he missed coaching. Inman was coaching at the high school level in Lebanon, Tennessee, before Tennessee State hired him in 2012.
''I knew coming in he already was a living legend,'' Tennessee State guard Rachel Allen said. ''When I got to know him personally, my first impressions were you could tell he really cared about us. The very first time I met Coach Inman, it was a players-only meeting, and he wanted to hear (from) our hearts what were the problems going on in the program. Since then, you could tell he cares about us. Other than basketball, he cares about us as people. I think that's the main thing that separates him from most coaches on this level.''
Before this season, Tennessee State had posted a winning record just once since making its last NCAA appearance in 1995 when current athletic director Teresa Phillips was coaching the team. That made the Lady Tigers' surge this season even more surprising.
After getting off to a 1-6 start, Tennessee State has gone 17-6. The Lady Tigers upset top-seeded UT Martin 64-60 in overtime in the Ohio Valley Conference final to end the Skyhawks' string of four straight league tournament titles.
''We don't have great size,'' Inman said. ''We don't have great quickness. We just have kids with great hearts. They just were so determined this year.''
Trakh engineered a similar turnaround at New Mexico State.
The Aggies posted losing records in Trakh's first three years on the job. But since losing their first five games of the season, they have won 22 of 24 to move atop the Western Athletic Conference standings. New Mexico State won its first regular-season conference title in 20 years and first conference tournament championship ever.
''We think we're going to be really good next year,'' Trakh said. ''We thought that would be the year, but you know what? If we're a year ahead of schedule, that's fine too.''