- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2002

In recent days, Chris Weller talked with her sister Jackie about her future, participated in events that commemorated the closing of Cole Field House and reunited with former players to celebrate past accomplishments. After stepping back, she came to a conclusion yesterday morning:
It was time.
After 27 seasons in College Park, Weller retired yesterday as Maryland women's basketball coach, citing what she said was good timing and personal reasons. In issuing a farewell that at times was tearful, Weller reflected on a career that included three national Final Fours, eight ACC tournament titles and left her one victory shy of 500 for her career.
Maryland immediately will begin a national search for a replacement. Senior associate athletics director Kathleen Worthington will head the search committee.
"There's never an ideal time to retire, but if ever there is in a coaching career, it was this year for me," said Weller, 57. "… I want to express thanks to Maryland for all the opportunities I had."
Weller finished with a career record of 499-286. Among the highlights of her tenure were Maryland's trips to the 1978, 1982 and 1989 Final Fours and five ACC tournament titles in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1992, Maryland set an ACC attendance record for a women's basketball game by drawing 14,500 for the No. 2 Terps' one-point loss to No. 1 Virginia a moment Weller said ranks among the most memorable in her career.
Weller said she is committed to continuing to work in women's athletics in some capacity. She said after she takes "some time to let myself get regrouped personally," she will consider an offer from Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow to work in the university's athletics administration, likely in fund-raising. She did not rule out coaching again, but said it is doubtful.
"I never wanted to be somebody who just kind of just did a job. I like to make a difference. I still look forward to be able to do that," Weller said.
Weller has made a difference. Her retirement leaves a gaping void not only in the Maryland program, but all of college basketball and women's athletics. Weller, who graduated in 1966 after playing four years of basketball at Maryland and became coach at her alma mater in 1975, is one of the pioneers of the women's game.
She played and began coaching at a time when women's athletics were an afterthought, with little organization, school funding or media recognition in the mid-1970s, a women's basketball coaching job wasn't considered a "career." In the mid-1970s, Weller and Yow, who coached at Kentucky, were among just nine full-time women's basketball coaches in the country; they each made about $9,000 a year. Last year, Weller was paid better than $125,000, reflecting the emphasis the NCAA, schools and the public gradually placed on the sport over the years.
"I got into coaching because there were no opportunities for girls in high school," Weller said. "If I could get people at Maryland to notice [womens basketball], then they would notice in the state of Maryland. Girls now play all sports just like the boys do and they benefit from those opportunities."
Said Yow: "Her legacy will not be forgotten. No one can be here for the time she was and have the impact she did. There aren't many people in the world who can say that about their life's work."
Just five other Division I women's coaches have spent 27 or more seasons at their current schools. Nineteen coaches now have more career victories than Weller.
"She is a leader in our field … and leaves the game as a great teacher and educator, which is the way I think of her first and foremost," said Kay Yow, Debbie's sister who is in her 26th year as N.C. State's coach.
Weller said she had contemplated retiring after last season but wanted to see things through with the 2001-02 senior class. At the ACC tournament last week in Greensboro, a ceremony was held to commemorate Maryland's 1977-78 team which won the ACC tournament and reached the championship game of the AIAW tournament, the precursor to the NCAAs. After calling and seeing her former players, Weller began to consider retiring more seriously.
Though her career was replete with championships and awards, Weller's recent teams struggled. After the Terps won 22 games in 1992-93, they finished under .500 four times, including 13-17 this season despite returning five starters and beginning the campaign ranked No. 23 in the AP poll.
"It was emotional it hit hard," said Terps junior guard Terri Daniels of Weller's announcement to the team yesterday morning. "It was kind of a dead feeling."
At the end of the 1996-97 season, Weller was reprimanded by Maryland's athletic department after six Terps went to officials complaining of mental and verbal abuse, among other examples of mistreatment. Two players, Kim Bretz and Brandi Barnes, transferred, but Weller patched things up with the other players and she was retained. In 1998-99, Weller suffered through her worst season with the Terps, going 6-21. Maryland would reach the women's NIT the next season and the NCAA tournament last season, where it lost in the first round.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide