Oklahoma City Regional notebook: Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale reflects on last meeting with Tennessee

by Jason Kersey and Stephanie Kuzydym Published: March 30, 2013

ROSS: 2012-13 TEAM WILL ‘ALWAYS HAVE A SPECIAL PLACE IN MY LIFE'

Sitting in the locker room before practice Saturday, assistant coach Jan Ross choked up talking about this year's group of Oklahoma players.

Ross, in her 17th year as an OU assistant, was diagnosed with breast cancer last April and fought through chemotherapy treatments last summer.

Today, Ross is cancer-free and “feels great,” she said, adding that the 2012-13 team will always be special to her.

“This group of kids ... it's a special group,” Ross said. “They helped me through a lot. Regardless of what happens or how long we still play, they'll always have a special place in my life because they helped me through a not-so-good time. I love them all.”

TENNESSEE'S OKLAHOMA CITY REGIONAL HISTORY

The last time Tennessee played in the NCAA Tournament regional site in Oklahoma City, the Lady Vols had a winning outcome.

In 2008, Tennessee faced Notre Dame, then Texas A&M, winning both before advancing to the Final Four in Tampa, Fla. where the Lady Vols beat LSU and Stanford to win the national title.

Warlick recalled that weekend when she spoke with the media Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

“You can't forget that opportunity we had here,” she said. “Great crowd. We played Texas A&M in the finals. Very eventful for us.”

TO STOP GRINER OR NOT TO STOP GRINER?

Some teams are known for doing crazy, odd, uncanny things to try to beat an opponent everyone thinks is unbeatable.

Baylor's dominance in the last few years has left a lot of teams desperate to find a way to win, or even keep the score close.

Louisville coach Jeff Walz has his own plan.

“I'm trying to put six,” Walz said. “I'm hoping our officials are bad at math ... and we just get 'em real confused.”

The media laughed as Walz grinned. So how do you stop Baylor? Walz believes you don't.

“Instead of getting all concerned about how you are going to stop Brittney Griner from scoring 30, forget it, she's going to,” he said. “Figure out a way how we can score 70. If we can figure that out, then you might have a chance to get the last five minutes of the ballgame where shots start to matter.

“With the success they've had, it's been a while since a shot's mattered in the last four or five minutes of the game.”

COALE, HAND SHARE SPECIAL BOND

Coale enjoys close personal relationships with all her players, but her bond with Hand is undeniably special.

That connection made Hand's career-ending ACL tear all the more difficult.

Hand injured the knee late in the first half of Oklahoma's Dec. 6 win over North Texas. After the game that night, Coale went to Hand's home and visited with her, her father Rich Hand and her husband, former OU quarterback Landry Jones.

“That really helped me process things,” Coale said. “I told her at that time, ‘I'm not ready to tell you all the things that I want to tell you when we're done. I'm not ready yet.' It was good to have those moments.”

Hand said the in-home visit that night was just more evidence of what she already knew about her coach.

“She came over to my house that night and just cried with me,” Hand said. “You know that it's real to her, and that she loves you, not just for what you can do on the court, but for who you are as a person.”

QUOTABLE

Baylor star Griner on her free spirit and how it's helped her deal with some of the national attention: “Definitely. Like a butterfly in a cocoon coming out.”

by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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by Stephanie Kuzydym
Reporter
Stephanie Kuzydym learned at a young age that life is a game of inches. That's just one reason why she loves football. Kuzydym joined The Oklahoman in July 2012. Before arriving in the state, Kuzydym was an intern for the sports departments at...
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