Oklahoma women’s coach Coale retires after 3 Final Fours

Oklahoma women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale is retiring after 25 years leading the program.

The school made the announcement in a news release on Wednesday.

Coale, a native of tiny Healdton, Oklahoma, is a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and will be inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame this summer. She led three Oklahoma teams to the Final Four, and the Sooners reached the national title game in 2002. She is a four-time Big 12 Coach of the Year who led the Sooners to six Big 12 regular-season and four Big 12 tournament titles.

“In April of 1996, I accepted this, my dream job,” Coale said in a statement. “As a native Oklahoman, I was pretty sure I had died and gone to heaven. Though the task would not be for the faint of heart, I just wanted to build a program that this great state and this storied institution could be proud of. Twenty-five years later, I still cannot believe the ride Oklahoma women’s basketball has taken me on.”

Coale finished her college coaching career with a 512-293 overall record. Now, she’s ready to take a different path.

“There have always been other things I want to do,” she said. “I’m ready to explore those things and I’m ready to run toward unfettered days with my brand-new beautiful granddaughter. Twenty-five years just feels right in my bones and in my soul.”

Coale graduated from Oklahoma Christian University before starting her coaching career. She coached at Norman High, where she led the Lady Tigers to two Class 6A state titles. She then took over at Oklahoma, and the Sooners claimed six Big 12 Player of the Year honors on her watch. She also produced 14 WNBA draft selections, including six first-round picks.

“Sherri Coale has encouraged everyone from players to peers to ‘leave your story better than you found it,’” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “She walked her talk. Her transformational impact on women’s basketball at OU which, in turn, inspired generations of young girls throughout our state to play the sport is nearly impossible to measure.”

Coale had some notable players along the way.

Stacey Dales, the point guard on OU’s 2001-02 squad that reached the national title game, was Big 12 Player of the Year and a first-team AP All-American in 2001 and 2002. She was Coale’s first Olympian, representing Canada in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Courtney Paris was the AP National Player of the Year in 2007 and a three-time Big 12 Player of the Year. She returned to Oklahoma as an assistant coach in 2020 after an 11-year professional career.

This season’s team wasn’t as successful as many of Coale’s past ones, but it had her resilience. The Sooners struggled early but came on in February with wins over NCAA Tournament-bound teams Iowa State, West Virginia and Texas to finish with a 12-12 record.

“It’s hard to leave these players,” she said. “This seasoned bunch of gritty competitors who built their wings in the fiercest of winds clawed their way to the sacredness of team. This season will always be one tattooed on my heart. But that’s the trick about sports and the magnificent gift of team-it gets in you and it never goes away. Lucky, lucky, lucky me.”

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More AP women’s college basketball coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball

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