It was announced at a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Kohl Center that women’s basketball head coach Jane Albright is resigning her position effective at the end of this season.
“We agreed at the beginning of the year that there were only two options at the end of the season, either a long-term contract or make a change in head coach. Anything less than a long-term contract was not a viable option,” senior associate athletic director Jamie Pollard said.
“During our discussion this past week, Coach Albright told me that she would prefer to have our decision sooner than later. At her request, we notified her Monday night that we were not going to recommend to the athletic board to grant her a long-term contract; as a result, she decided to resign her position.”
In a statement released by Albright, she explained, “without that long-term commitment, it would have been impossible to continue to recruit the quality student-athletes that the program has become accustomed to signing.”
Pollard described the four goals of the women’s basketball program as academic success, strong community involvement, Big Ten regular-season and post-season success and NCAA tournament success. While he stated that Albright had met the department’s expectations for the first two goals, the department felt the last two goals have remained unfulfilled.
“The on-court success for our women’s basketball program has been clearly inconsistent with the resources we have committed to this program, and we have not achieved our desired goals of a Big Ten conference championship and deep penetration into the NCAA tournament,” Pollard said.
Despite being the winningest coach in program history, with a 161-104 record, Albright has suffered through her past few seasons at UW. In the 2001-2002 season, the team opened the season 16-1, including a school record 15-game win streak that elevated the team to No. 5 in the nation. After this impressive streak, however, the team went 3-11 down the stretch to finish a disappointing 19-12.
Thus far in the 2002-2003 season, the team sputtered out of the gates to a 2-12 start but then regained some steam down the stretch, improving its record to 7-11 overall and 5-9 Big Ten.
Albright, the 1995 Big Ten coach of the year, has totaled four 20-win seasons, five NCAA appearances and two WNIT appearances. The highest any of her teams have finished in the Big Ten in her nine-year tenure is second in the 2000-2001 season, in which the team lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“There has been talk of it for the last two years, but I can tell you that everyone on the staff and on the team had hoped it was going to go the other way and that she was going to keep her job,” former player and current student assistant coach Kyle Black said.
The entire team was as shocked as Black was when Albright told the team in a meeting before practice yesterday afternoon. Many of the players, especially the freshmen, were visibly upset, as tears streamed down their faces during and after the press conference.
“I can’t even tell you what is going through my head right now except that I am in shock right now, and I have a lot of different things going. We are all just trying to hold together right now and support each other. It was a shock to everybody,” freshman forward Jordan Wilson said. “We had a great coaching staff, and I really don’t know what anybody else could do that they didn’t do or try to do.”
Black explained that Albright’s resignation was so hard on many of the players because, in addition to a basketball relationship with coach Albright, many of the players felt like she was part of their family.
“A relationship starts with the coach when you are in high school, and you get recruited by these coaches, and you build a relationship both through basketball and just as like a family,” Black said. “That is really the reason why I came to Wisconsin, because I thought that Coach “A” (Albright) and the rest of her coaching staff really provided a family-type atmosphere. I think this is hard for players, because they are not only losing a coach, but they are losing a friend.”
Pollard announced that a national search will begin immediately to identify a replacement for Albright that will “lead the program into the future.”
Albright’s contract, which runs until May 31, 2004, is still being negotiated as of the press conference yesterday afternoon.
Albright has expressed hopes to continue coaching in the future.