Barry To Retire After 22 Seasons At Reins Of CU Women's Basketball
(To see full text of quotes from Barry's Thursday press conference, scroll down this page.)
BOULDER - Long-time University of Colorado women's basketball coach Ceal Barry announced Thursday morning that she is retiring after 22 seasons at the reins of the Buffalo program.
Barry, who will turn 50 this April 1, will coach the team through the remainder of this season and will retire having coached the most games, matches or tournaments (666 including Wednesday's game at Texas) and the sixth most seasons of any sport in Colorado athletic history. Her 426 victories are also the most by any coach at the school.
This year's team, with just two seniors and five freshmen or sophomores getting prominent playing time, has struggled to an 8-17 record, including a 1-13 mark in Big 12 Conference games; two regular season games and the Big 12 tournament remain on the schedule.
That's the sad news; the good news is that she won't be moving very far, perhaps all of 500 feet. Interim athletic director Jack Lengyel has named Barry to fill the vacant assistant athletic director for student services position and her new office will be in the Dal Ward Athletic Center.
"First of all, to the University of Colorado, I was just this shy, untested, basketball-crazy coach from the Midwest, and (former athletic director) Eddie Crowder decided to take a chance on me," Barry said. "It turned out to be a match made in heaven.
"The expectations of the University of Colorado and the goals that I had set for myself, and the standards the University of Colorado has for student-athletes and athletics were right in line with what I thought they should be. I had no idea when I drove over that mesa in 1983 that I'd be able to last in such a tough, demanding profession for 22 years. And the only reason I've been able to last for 22 years in a profession that can be so up and down ? and high and low -- is because of the support I have received from countless numbers of people."
Barry took over a regionally successful program from one of her would-be mentors, the late Russell "Sox" Walseth, as former athletic director Eddie Crowder hired her as the fifth head coach in CU women's basketball history on April 12, 1983. But her charge was to lead the then-Lady Buffs into the Big Eight Conference, which officially started league play her rookie season as coach and was considered the next level from the old Intermountain Conference in which CU had competed in since the sport attained varsity status in 1974.
Barry's pedigree, a four-year letterwinner at Kentucky under coach Debbie Yow and an 83-42 record in four seasons as head coach at Cincinnati convinced Crowder that she was the right woman for the job. Twenty-two years and four U.S. presidents later, a 426-240 record, 12 NCAA tournament appearances, including six times in the Sweet 16 and three times in the Elite Eight, 13 20-win seasons, five conference championships and assorted coach of the year honors for five different seasons has proved she was more than just the right person, she is a legend.
"This was never all about me. We accomplished things as a team," she said. "(But) change will be good. We don'tdeserve to ever walk off the floor losing to Texas the way we lost last night (83-40 in Austin). It pains me to look in the eyes of my players and still see them uphold and stand with pride with 'Colorado' on their jerseys.
"I want them to win in the worst way," she continued. "I don't necessarily want to say 'step down;' I want to say 'step to the side.' I want to move the program forward. I am at peace. I am going to still be in the department. I promised our team that I am going to work very diligently with the new athletic director and new administrators in the department to help our cause, because the Big 12 is very tough and competitive."
She became just the 24th coach in women's NCAA history to reach 500 career wins?hitting the plateau in February 2004?and her all-time record of 509-282 and .643 winning percentage remain among the all-time best, ranking 20th among active coaches. Her teams have posted a 190-133 record in conference play, as 13 of her teams finished first, second or third in the league standings for the regular season. Off the court, Barry has graduated all but three four-year players (well over a 95% graduation rate) and has coached 82 Academic All-Conference student-athletes.
Prior to the formation of the Big 12 Conference in 1996, Barry was the Big Eight Coach of the Year four times (1989, ?93, ?94, ?95) and the District V Coach of the Year in 1993 and ?95. The 1995 squad posted a school record 30 wins and came within a whisper of advancing to the Final Four. She led her teams to four regular season Big Eight titles and five postseason tournament titles, the last in the inaugural Big 12 Tournament in 1997.
When the 1997 tournament title placed Barry's name in the inaugural Big 12 record book it was a fitting transition for a coach whose name will forever be etched into the history of the Big Eight. In her 13 seasons she was 184-96 when leading the Buffs against Big Eight foes. Barry won more regular-season games (118), league titles (4), tournament titles (4), coach of the year honors (4) and coached more newcomers of the year (4) than any other league coach, while tying for the most NCAA tournament appearances with seven.
Barry's Buffs had three wins over then-defending national champions with the most shocking coming in 1993 in Colorado's first-ever Sweet 16 appearance, an 80-67 win over Stanford in the NCAA West Regional semifinal in Missoula, Mont.
Following her second consecutive Big Eight title in 1994, the United States Basketball Writers Association and Basketball Times Magazine named Barry National Coach of the Year. On the local level, she was inducted into the Colorado Sportswomen Hall of Fame the same year. Twice, Barry has had her name on the finalist list for the Naismith Award for Coaching, those honors coming in the last two seasons.
While those awards signified others taking note of her success, Barry's favorite accolade in her decorated career came in 1995 when she was presented with one of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's highest honors, the Carol Eckman Award. That honor is presented to a coach who exemplifies sportsmanship, commitment to the student-athlete, integrity, ethical behavior and dedication to the purpose. The award was made more special when presented to Barry by her friend and colleague, Carol Callan, also the color commentator on CU radio broadcasts.
Barry's impressive resume has also given her the chance to see the world, coaching the likes of the R. Williams Jones Cup Team, which toured Taiwan in 1988, to coaching the Big 12 All-Stars on a tour of Europe following the 2001 season. While her coaching travels have taken her abroad, the highlight was her stint as an assistant coach for the 1996 United States Olympic Basketball team that won the gold medal. The appointment was her seventh USA Basketball nod since 1987 as she worked with Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer in coaching the red, white and blue to victory.
She was head coach of the 2004 U.S. Junior World Championships Qualifying Team last summer, which went undefeated en route to the gold medal in August's qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico. She was scheduled to coach the team in the Junior World Championship this summer in Tunisia, but since only active coaches are allowed to do so, she has informed USA Basketball that she will not be able to complete that assignment.
Barry was second on the current CU coaching staff in terms of service, trailing only men's golf coach Mark Simpson, who is in his 29th season. Skiing coach Richard Rokos is next behind Barry's 22 years, as he in his 15th season. Along with Simpson, only Frank Potts (track, 41 seasons), Les Fowler (golf, 29), Frank Prentup (baseball, 24) and Dick Gray (tennis, 23) logged more seasons as a head coach than Barry at Colorado.
Lengyel said associate athletic director Karen Morrison will coordinate the search for Barry's replacement, with the goal to have a successor named prior to the Women's Final Four April 3-5.
The assistant AD/student services position has been vacant since December 31, when Brian Winkelbauer left to enter private business. Created in 1989, she will become the just the fourth person (and the first woman) to hold the position.
"There is no question that I will miss the relationships I have with the players," Barry concluded. "There is something very special between a coach and a player. The emotional highs and lows, the push and the pull, the love and the hate... only a coach can understand that. I will miss that tremendously, and it will never, ever be replaced."
The remaining two regular season games are at home, this Saturday (Feb. 26) against No. 6 Baylor (22-3) and next Wednesday (March 2) against Nebraska. Both games tip off at 7:00 p.m., with the Nebraska game designated as "Senior Night with a Special Tribute to Coach Ceal Barry" at the Coors Events Center.
Head Coach Ceal Barry Full Transcript of Quotes
On First Arriving at Colorado: "First of all, to the University of Colorado, I was just this shy, untested, basketball-crazy coach from the Midwest, and (former athletic director) Eddie Crowder decided to take a chance on me. It turned out to be a match made in heaven. The expectations of the University of Colorado and the goals that I had set for myself, and the standards the University of Colorado has for student-athletes and athletics were right in line with what I thought they should be. I had no idea when I drove over that mesa in 1983 that I'd be able to last in such a tough, demanding profession for 22 years. And the only reason I've been able to last for 22 years in a profession that can be so up and down ? and high and low ? is because of the support I have received from countless numbers of people. The highs have been so high, and I have to tell you, the lows (have been tough, too). There have been days at Gate Eight of my office when I thought I couldn't move one step farther."
On Stepping Aside: "I want to thank my current staff. This has been most difficult on my current staff. They have been with me every step of the way this year. They have walked off the court along side me when times have been very tough.
"Change will be good. We don't deserve to ever walk off the floor losing to Texas the way we lost last night. It pains me to look in the eyes of my players and still see them uphold and stand with pride with ?Colorado' on their jerseys... to see them uphold with pride the standard that so many classes before them have set. I want them to win in the worst way. I don't necessarily want to say ?step down;' I want to say ?step to the side.' I want to move the program forward. I am at peace. I am going to still be in the department. I promised our team that I am going to work very diligently with the new athletic director and new administrators in the department to help our cause, because the Big 12 is very tough and competitive. We all know that it is a different animal than the Big Eight. We need some things to keep pace, and my goal will be to help with that. My goal is to be a part of that success, hopefully in a different arena.
"This isn't a one-person organization. It will go on without me. It will be good without me. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and to have people like (former ADs) Eddie Crowder, Bill Marlot and Dick Tharp to help me along the way."
On What She'll Miss Most: "There is no question that I will miss the relationships I have with the players. There is something very special between a coach and a player. The emotional highs and lows, the push and the pull, the love and the hate... only a coach can understand that. I will miss that tremendously, and it will never, ever be replaced."
On Timing of Retirement: "I think every coach would like to walk away with a national championship trophy and the net around your neck. But sometimes it doesn't work out that way. I think the time is now because of the tremendous amount of recruiting, the pace of recruiting and the number of hours in hotels on the road. The last 28 years I have spent in hotels and airports. I feel like I know the airport security and TSA people better than I know my neighbors. It's the recruiting pace, and in all fairness to my players they deserve to play with and against the best players in the nation. To most coaches, I don't think they ever get tired of the practices or games; it's always the recruiting."
On Her Upcoming Administration Role: "I discussed administration (possibilities) with (former AD) Dick Tharp in 1997. I've always had it in my hip pocket thinking about, ?I wonder if I can do anything else, other than set up an inbounds play?' I think truly in the last five years I have contemplated it.
"I'll have to see how I like it. I don't know how I'm going to feel without that daily contact with the players. But I know that I am not the type of person who will not work. I know I am the type of person with the type of personality who needs to keep busy, or else I'll drive myself crazy.
"If we were 13-1 right now, honestly, we probably wouldn't be sitting here. But I think you need to be honest with yourself. I get paid a lot of money, but I don't get paid a lot of money to be 1-13. And I need to be accountable for our performances. I guess I saw us slide, and I felt guilty because I am responsible. I think it began to snowball on our kids and they lost confidence a little bit. I felt responsible. So, it was sort of a gradual thing as the season went along. Certainly, (the thought of retiring didn't arise) in the last six weeks; it has been in the back of my mind for awhile."
On the Biggest Change Since First Year of Coaching: "I hate to say this, but the mad dash to sign the top player. Sometimes my feeling is that integrity can be comprised at the expense to make sure you get the signature on the dotted line. And that doesn't sit well with me. That portion of my profession just doesn't sit or fit with my personality. That is by far the biggest change. Kids are still the same, the game is relatively the same, but recruiting has changed the whole game of Division I athletics."
On Addressing the Team about Her Decision: "(I told them) last night after the Texas game. I wasn't planning on telling them in Texas. I wanted to tell them today. But I think these things get out, and I certainly didn't want them to hear it from anyone other than me.
"They (the players) are the only ones who could have changed my mind. I'll put it that way. I mean, I love those players.
"I will definitely finish out the season. I hope for a very smooth transition with the new coach. I don't expect any antagonism. I would certainly hope that I will help in any way I can with the new person."
On Her Top Moments at CU: "One of the best memories of my life was that sellout crowd in 1989. The women had never sold out. That was just awesome. We had to call the fire marshals, and they wanted to clear the isles. I think we let in over capacity that night. To me that is so memorable. That was the first sellout ever at Coors, and I was very proud to say it happened for a women's event.
"That '89 team upsetting Louisiana Tech and going on a 20-game win streak ? they were just one of the all-time greatest teams. I had four 1,000-point scorers on that team.
"The '93 team that upset Stanford in our very first regional when Stanford was the defending National Champion (was memorable), too. We were green and we walked in and beat them, and it was just a great feeling.
"And then the 2000 team when four of the sophomores quit because all of the freshmen beat them out. I tried to talk the sophomores into staying, but my freshmen told me, ?Coach Barry, we're going to be fine without them.' That was the first time I had thought about it that way, and we went on to the Elite Eight two years later and got so close to the Final Four. Those freshmen said if the other players didn't want to be here, ?Then we'll do it without them,' and they certainly did.
"Certainly, the Shelley Sheetz years are big. I can't get though this press conference without mentioning her. She changed the face of women's basketball at CU and in the state of Colorado. We had sellouts throughout her career. She was so accommodating to the media, too. Shelley Sheetz was one of the all-time greats."
On Other Possibilities in the Distant Future: "I see those coaches all the time, how they take a break (and return to coaching). And I wonder about NBA coaches and Major League Baseball managers still keep going at 70, and that is because they get a break. But for 28 years, I haven't really had a break. I don't know how I'm going to feel. I feel healthy now, I don't have any health issues. I think a break sometimes may rejuvenate you and you'll go, ?Wow, I miss it. I miss being out on the court.' But, I haven't known anything else in my life. I have spent every holiday the past 28 years in the gym. I don't know what I want, and I don't even know who I am other than Coach Barry.
"I need to take a step back and make sure whatever I do isn't knee-jerk. I have committed to Jack (Lengyel) and (interim chancellor) Phil DiStefano for this new position, and they were agreeable enough to make a space for me in this department. I am going to have a great time watching this team as a spectator. I told them last night that I will be here. I recruited so many of these young players, and I want to be here for them. I want to be in Dal Ward. That is pretty much where my heart has been. Over the years this person calls or that person has called, but you know what, nobody has got (the Flatirons) right out there. This is my home."