Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale retires after 25 seasons

Legendary coach Sherri Coale retires

After a career as a high school English teacher, Sherri Coale took over an Oklahoma women’s basketball program that was on the chopping block. After 25 seasons she announced her retirement. During her tenure, she earned more than 500 wins, went to three Final Fours, nine Sweet 16s, and ten conference championships.

The release from the university:

Sherri Coale, one of the most accomplished and impactful head coaches in University of Oklahoma history in any sport, is retiring after a transformative 25 years at the helm of the OU women’s basketball program. She informed her team Wednesday morning.

Owner of the most wins in OU women’s basketball history and a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Coale was a four-time Big 12 Coach of the Year and directed the Sooners to 10 Big 12 championships (six regular season, four tournament) and 20 postseason appearances, including 19 consecutive NCAA Tournaments. She finished her collegiate career with a 512-293 (.636) overall record and a 253-168 (.601) mark in Big 12 play.

Coale’s teams were especially potent in the postseason, evidenced by the fact that nine of her squads that qualified for the NCAA Tournament advanced to the Sweet 16 or beyond. Three of them barreled their way to the Final Four (2002, 2009, 2010), with the 2001-02 Sooners advancing to the national championship game. All told, her teams registered 31 NCAA Tournament wins, good for 15th most among Division I women’s basketball coaches. Her three Final Four appearances are tied for eighth most in history.

In total, Coale coached OU players to four first-team All-America honors and six Big 12 Player of the Year accolades. Thirty-one Sooners earned a total of 65 all-conference honors under her direction. She also produced 14 WNBA Draft selections, including six first-round picks. Seventeen of her pupils played professionally overseas (in 27 countries on six continents).

Appointed by the NCAA to the USA Basketball Competition Committee in 2005, Coale herself experienced international success. In 2013, she led USA Basketball to a gold medal in the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, and as an assistant coach in 2001 helped USA’s Women’s Junior World Championship Team to a bronze medal in Brno, Czech Republic.

The success of Coale’s Oklahoma players was not limited to the hardwood. She made sure they understood that the methods and rules of her program would make them better athletes and students, and position them for success once they completed school. An accomplished student herself — she was an NAIA Scholar-Athlete Award winner and graduated summa cum laude from Oklahoma Christian — Coale presided over Sooner teams that compiled a combined GPA of 3.0 or higher in 41 of the 49 semesters since she arrived at OU. Sixty-seven of her players graduated from OU and 66 earned a total of 131 Academic All-Big 12 honors (the 2021 Academic All-Big 12 Team will be announced next week).

Coale’s OU program was also a perennial champion in the community. Her teams have long been involved in serving Norman and greater Oklahoma City through a variety of outreach programs, including the Sooner Big Sis Program, which enabled players to volunteer their time as mentors and teachers’ aides at Norman elementary schools; Food and Shelter; the Mary Abbott Children’s House; Habitat for Humanity; Oklahoma City Children’s Hospital; J.D. McCarthy Center for Children with Developmental Disabilities; the Children’s Miracle Network; the CCF; the United Way’s “Meals on Wheels”; Special Olympics; Race for the Cure; and the Norman Women’s Resource Center.

?Since 2012, Coale served as a member of the Kay Yow Foundation’s Board of Directors and in August 2019 received the Foundation’s Impact Award, which is presented to an individual or organization exemplifying Coach Yow and the Foundation’s values.

The architect of Oklahoma’s women’s basketball renaissance, Coale was responsible for Lloyd Noble Center’s skyrocketing attendance in the 2000s. The 50 largest home OU women’s hoops crowds all came during Coale’s tenure, including the record 12,205 that attended the Sooners’ 2008 win over Oklahoma State. OU first surpassed the 10,000-spectator mark on Dec. 29, 1999, against top-ranked Connecticut (10,713 fans), and went on to rank third nationally in 2007-08 by averaging 10,253 fans per home contest. In 2008-09 alone, Coale’s team drew more than 10,000 fans at six different home games.

?Courtney Paris, the star of that 2008-09 squad, was perhaps the most notable of Coale’s pupils. Paris, who returned to her alma mater as an assistant coach in 2020 after an 11-year professional career, was a three-time Big 12 Player of the Year and set a record nearly every time she stepped on the court. The first player in Oklahoma state history, man or woman, to earn AP National Player of the Year honors (2006-07 season), she was also the first four-time All-American by the Associated Press and U.S. Basketball Writers’ Association. Additionally, she became the first college basketball player, regardless of gender or division, to record 2,500 career points and 2,000 career rebounds. Paris finished with 20 NCAA, 57 Big 12 Conference and 69 Oklahoma records — her most famous being a double-double streak of 112 games.

Coale, who grew up in Healdton, Okla., began her coaching career in the Oklahoma high school ranks. She received her first coaching assignment at Edmond Memorial High School after graduating from Oklahoma Christian, serving a two-year term as an assistant coach.

The next stop was as the head coach of the Norman High School girls’ basketball team from 1990-96. Coale took a declining NHS program and after an 11-12 performance in her debut season, the Lady Tigers never had a losing record under her tutelage. By the time she left for OU, Coale had directed Norman to two Class 6A state championships and a 147-40 (.786) career record. Her final two Norman teams went 53-2. She was honored as the region, state and Big All-City High School Coach of the Year in 1993.

Four of her high school players earned NCAA Division I basketball scholarships: Stacy Hansmeyer to Connecticut (1997-2000); Sarah Dimson to Stanford (1998-2001); and Sunny Hardeman (1998-2001) and Shannon Selmon (1999-2002) to Oklahoma.

Hansmeyer and Coale were inducted into Norman High School Hall of Fame together in February 2002. Coale is also a member of the Oklahoma Christian Sports Hall of Fame. She will be inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame this summer.

Castiglione indicated that a search to find Coale’s replacement will begin immediately.

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