SAN ANTONIO — Amanda Thompson and a couple of teammates strolled the Riverwalk on Friday. Someone recognized them as Sooner basketball players. "It was only a couple of us, and someone was like, ‘Is Sherri Coale with you?’ ” Thompson said.
The Sooners are accustomed to such curiosity. Their coach is high- profile. "Everywhere we go, Coach Coale is known,” said OU’s Danielle Robinson. Said Thompson, "Pretty high celeb.” Coale, who has her team in tonight’s Final Four at the Alamodome, is a rock star in Oklahoma. But she’s also an icon outside her native state. "She’s got a tremendous amount of respect on the national stage,” said television analyst Doris Burke, who will be part of ESPN’s broadcast crew tonight. Coale has taken the Sooners to their third Final Four this decade. Her players are engaging and gregarious. OU’s fan base is one of the best in the nation. Coale is the immediate past president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. "If you’re an athletics director, how could you ask for anything more?” Burke said. "And it doesn’t hurt that she looks fabulous in a skirt and Louboutin heels. "Let’s not fool ourselves. Women’s basketball is still searching that 18-49 (male) demographic. I know my golf pro won’t stop talking about her.” But Coale is not the total package. Not yet anyway. She’s missing an NCAA championship. The ultimate trophy is a great white whale most years, much less in 2010, when Connecticut’s Godzillas still reign. Tonight’s OU-Stanford showdown is in some ways the defacto national finals, since this season has been a race for second. But this year or later, Coale needs that national championship to elevate her and her program’s status. "She has work to do,” Burke said.