Newly named Georgia women's basketball head coach Joni Crenshaw, left facing camera, gives a hug after an introductory press conference on Monday, April 13, 2015, in Athens, Ga. (AJ Reynolds/Athens Banner-Herald via AP) MAGS OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT
AP Photo
April 13, 2015

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Joni Crenshaw worked for Andy Landers for four years at Georgia, and their connection helped her become a better coach.

Now she gets to put those lessons to good use.

Crenshaw, 36, was introduced Monday as Landers' successor with the Lady Bulldogs. Landers retired in March after Georgia was not invited to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years.

''Coach Landers recruited me in high school, and once I got into the profession, we developed a friendship and a relationship,'' Crenshaw said. ''When he called asked me to be a part of his staff, I jumped at the opportunity, never knowing I'd have this chance today.

''It's been an absolute privilege to stand beside him every day. The trust and responsibility he gave to me during my four years as an assistant spoke volumes to the belief he had in me, and that's what fuels me.''

The connection between Crenshaw, Landers and the Georgia program goes all the way back to 1979. On the day Crenshaw was born, Landers, then just 26 years old, sent a letter to then-Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley explaining why he was the best choice for the Lady Bulldogs' first full-time women's basketball coach.

Landers got the job and went 862-299 in 36 years at the school. He coached the Lady Bulldogs to 11 Southeastern Conference titles, 30 20-win seasons and five Final Fours.

Next up is Crenshaw, an Alabama graduate who served as an assistant coach for 13 years at LSU, Alabama, Louisiana Tech and Troy and Georgia.

A native of Meridian, Miss., Crenshaw was a two-year starter for the Crimson Tide and played on Alabama teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 1998 and 1999.

Crenshaw also has a strong connection to another SEC school. Her fiance, Darius Taylor, is an assistant coach for the South Carolina women's team. The couple will marry in August.

Asked if getting married or starting a new era with Georgia women's team was more nerve-rattling, Crenshaw said: ''Both. Darius is someone I've known for a long time, and after we started talking on a more personal level, I realized he was the person that God had waiting for me. I'm 36 years old and I would not be getting married if I didn't know for sure he was the absolute one.''

Associate athletic director Carla Williams, who led the search for a new women's coach, said Crenshaw - like Landers more than three decades before - offered compelling reasons to put her in charge.

''(Crenshaw had) some opportunities to look at other jobs during her time here, but once we actually interviewed her, she blew us away,'' said Williams, who played for Landers from 1985-89 and also was an assistant coach at Georgia. ''We talked to a lot of very good people and Joni competed really hard for the position. She just went out and took it - she earned it.''

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