Familiar face joins Oklahoma's Coale in Hall of Fame class
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Sherri Coale remembers beginning her rebuilding project at Oklahoma by trying to sign Jackie Stiles, then a high school star in Kansas.
Coale lost that recruiting battle, but she has prevailed enough in the two decades since to join Stiles as part of this weekend's Women's Basketball Hall of Fame class.
''I begged her,'' Coale said. ''The wounds are still real. She was just an unbelievable high school player. Remarkably, she and her family let us in the mix and we got to be a part of that. I look back now and think, `Wow,' that was huge of them to be willing to entertain our overtures at that time because we hadn't done anything yet.''
Coale and Stiles are being inducted Saturday along with former official June Courteau, Texas high school coach Joe Lombard, former AAU girls basketball chairman Bill Tipps and former UCLA and WNBA star Natalie Williams. Tipps, who died in 2011, is being inducted posthumously.
The 1996 U.S. Olympic team that won a gold medal in the Atlanta Games will be honored as trailblazers of the game during Saturday's induction ceremony. The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame also is giving its inaugural ''For The Love Of The Game'' inspiration and courage award to Lauren Hill, who inspired millions by playing for Division III school Mount St. Joseph after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in 2014. Hill died at the age of 19 on April 10, 2015.
Coale owns a 442-217 record at Oklahoma in a 20-year tenure that includes a championship game appearance in 2002 as well as Final Four berths in 2009 and 2010, but her selection to the Hall of Fame still caught her by surprise.
''I sat down on the couch and was literally in shock for about half an hour,'' Coale said. ''I didn't tell anybody. I just sat there. I couldn't really wrap my head around it. I can't speak for anyone else, but I know for me, I never imagined this. This was never on the list.''
Coale's record might be even better if she'd coached Stiles, who went to Missouri State (then known as Southwest Missouri State) and set NCAA Division I records for points in a season (1,062 in 2000-01) and career (3,393 from 1998-2001). Stiles led the Bears to the Final Four in her senior year.
Stiles had Oklahoma among her four finalists and that Coale did indeed make an impact during the recruiting process.
''I can still vividly remember the home visit she did at my house,'' Stiles said. ''She had not even coached a season yet, but her energy and passion were so great, I almost ended up going there because you knew she was going to do special things. My mom fell in love with her. She was my mom's favorite. She wanted me to go to OU, I'll tell you that.''
Stiles believed she was meant to go to Southwest Missouri State, where she now works as an assistant coach. When she played her first AAU tournament, Southwest Missouri State assistant Lynnette Robinson was watching some older players and happened to notice her. Stiles remembered how Robinson told her if she kept working, she eventually could play Division I basketball.
''I just knew in my heart it was the best place for me,'' Stiles said. ''It was the best four years of my life.''
Courteau officiated 12 NCAA Women's Final Fours, five national championship games, 13 WNBA Finals and two WNBA All-Star Games. Lombard has won 17 high school state championships in Texas. Tipps was the chairman of AAU girls basketball from 1979-91.
Williams was a two-sport star at UCLA who earned All-America honors in both basketball and volleyball. She also was a three-time WNBA all-star and won a gold medal with the 2000 U.S. Olympic basketball team.
Courteau officiated 12 NCAA Women's Final Fours, five national championship games, 13 WNBA Finals and two WNBA All-Star Games. Lombard has won 18 Texas state championships in 38 years coaching first at Nazareth High and later at Canyon High. Tipps was the chairman of AAU girls basketball from 1979-91.