She'll Be Miss-ed

By Jeff Lippman - April 26, 2007


The Associated Press just published a story reporting that Mississippi coach Carol Ross is stepping down and will retire from coaching.

Ross spent four seasons at the helm of the Lady Rebels, building a winner with the help of seniors Armintie Price and Ashley Awkward.

In Ross' final season her team was solid. They cracked the Top 25 at one point and grinded out some big wins during the season. But then Ross and her seventh-seeded team did something in the NCAA tournament no one expected. They won. They spanked defending champ Maryland like the Terps used foul language at a family dinner.

And they won again. This time beating mighty Courtney Paris and Oklahoma, forcing the Sooners to go back to Norman with their tails between their legs.

Much of the reason for Ole Miss' tourney success rests on the shoulders of perhaps the greatest player in Rebels history, those of Armintie Price, who averaged 27.8 points during their four-game run to the Elite Eight--where eventual champion Tennessee finally stopped them.

But if Price gets the credit for willing the team so far, Ross should get the credit for transforming Price from the poor-shooting raw athlete who couldn't dribble as a freshman to the offensive and defensive star with nary a flaw in her game.

Ross' career saw her build the Florida Gators into winners--before she stepped down unexpectedly and Carolyn Peck ran them into the ground. The lure of coaching was too much and Ross took the Ole Miss job, where she turned them into winners as well.

And more than the results she's garnered, her teams love her and she loves her team.

Ross firmly believed that Price was one of the best players in the country all season, but playing for Ole Miss, she rarely got national coverage. And so Ross said one of the biggest reasons for her to put the max effort into getting the Rebels to advance in the tournament was so the country could get more opportunities to see the special play of her senior guard.

And when Price and Awkward sat at the podium after the Tennessee loss, Ross could barely control her emotions at the thought of not being able to coach her seniors any longer.

Perhaps Ross left because she felt this magical season was truly as good as it gets. That she won't be able to top this success.

Regardless of her reasons for leaving, she is still sorely missed in Gainesville as the Gators have struggled to field a winning team since her departure, and in Oxford, where this past season must have felt like a wild thrill ride, they will be pining for her presence on the bench next season.

I was only able to speak to coach Ross on two occassions--one phone conversation and once in person at the Dayton Regional--and both times I was taken aback with how down to earth, friendly and warm coach Ross is, not only with her players, but with nosy media-types like myself.

And so if Oxford doesn't miss her--and of course they will--I had looked forward to speaking with her again for seasons to come, and I can say that I'll miss not having that chance.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 11:57 AM on April 26, 2007
Comments (1)

Comments

Carol Ross is a great coach, and rarer still, a genuine one. Florida's been spiraling since she left. Ole Miss was home for her, and it's hard to imagine her going out better than the Rebs finish this season. The SEC's a weaker and far less quotable league without her ...

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