Austin: Wrapping It Up From Texas

By Jean Neuberger - March 20, 2007

We've finished up from the Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, as Oklahoma and LSU have punched tickets to regional semifinals in Dayton and Fresno, respectively. Here's some parting thoughts, and awards, as we wrap things up here in the capital city of Texas.

There was no doubt that Oklahoma and LSU were the best teams here, and both the Sooners and Tigers needed to advance. OU is simply loaded, and who knows how far they can really go. As long as Courtney Paris can't be stopped, the sky is the limit for the Sooners. LSU struggled tonight, but as Coach Bob Starkey reminded everyone, champion teams win the games that they play badly in, and LSU did just that tonight in coming back to beat an inspired West Virginia team.

Having said that, here are this weekend's awards....

Beating Marquette the way they If I was Maryland or Tennessee, I'd be very nervous about playing Oklahoma. This is a hungry team with a lot of weapons. Is a national title possible for the Sooners? Yes. They're playing their best, and they can take the title if things fall right.

PLAYER OF THE REGION: Courtney Paris, Oklahoma
Four words....Sixty...Straight...Double...Doubles

MASCOT OF THE REGION: Xavier's Blue Blob
Hard to ignore, hard to forget, yet definitely entertaining. You know the little kids love him.

FANS OF THE REGION: The San Antonio Dancers
Those are college sports fans at their finest...and hey, they watch CSTV. Rock on!

And now, my final parting thought : High School Coaches

Bob Knight said at Big XII Media Days that if you wanted to really find a good coach, go to the high school ranks, because they can't recruit the talent they get, so they have to mold it on their own and try and succeed.

Yet, here we are in 2007, and most major programs would laugh at the thought of hiring a high school coach to run your program, much less be an assistant coach. Look at Gus Malzahn. This guy turned the most vanilla offense in America at Arkansas into an unpredictable, exciting offense that featured the Heisman Trophy Runner-Up. The consensus viewpoint though is that his move to Tulsa was a sign of the other coaches not respecting his skills, because he was a high school coach the year before (when he led Springdale, AR HS to a 14-0 record and a #2 national ranking).

It seems as if the thought of high school coaches jumping to major programs are overlooked by ADs, and laughed at by other coaches and fans alike.

However, where would the Oklahoma women's basketball team be without their high school coach?

Sherri Coale has turned around the Sooner program in very short time. The Sooners were struggling mightily when they selected Coale, who at the time was the head women's basketball coach at Norman High School. Now, wherever Sherri Coale goes, OU fans follow, wildly cheering her on. She's on local, state, and national commercials, and has become one of the most recognized faces in the game today.

Yet, six years ago, she was trying to lead Norman High to the state championship. Now, she's four games away from a national championship. Pretty impressive, isn't it?

Bottom line, good high school coaches need to be given a chance to run some major programs. Ignore the scoffs of ADs and other coaches. Turn away from the laughs of fanatics on message boards who claim that they can run an athletic program better than anyone else. Look at what Gus Malzahn did with the Arkansas offense, and look at what Sherri Coale has done in a few years at Oklahoma. The results speak for themselves.

And with that, we end coverage of the first and second rounds of the 2007 NCAA Women's Tournament from Austin. Thanks again to everyone, from long lost friends of college days, to the security guys who greeted me at the front door, who was along for the ride. Good night from Austin, where LSU and Oklahoma advanced, and are now two steps away from the Final Four.

Posted by Jean Neuberger at 01:57 AM on March 20, 2007

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