ATLANTA (AP) — Andy Landers has ended a run of longevity that is rare in major college sports, retiring after 36 seasons as the only full-time coach in the history of the Georgia women’s program.
He built the program into a national power from the ground up.
Under Landers Georgia became a constant in the NCAA Tournament, including five Final Four appearances. He never led Georgia to a national championship, but was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.
Landers, 62 retired Monday following a season in which he recorded his 850th career win with the Lady Bulldogs. But Georgia lost nine of its last 11 games to finish 19-12 following a strong start to the season. Georgia was 17-3 before losing several players to injuries and illness.
Athletic director Vince Dooley hired Landers in 1979, and the young coach built a national power. Georgia ranks second nationally with 31 NCAA Tournament appearances and 522 weeks in the AP Top 25 — including 268 weeks in the top 10.
In a statement released by Georgia, Landers thanked Dooley “for entrusting me with the challenge of building a successful program” and current athletic director Greg McGarity “for continuing that trust and support.”
Landers also thanked former Georgia men’s coach Hugh Durham “for being a young coach’s mentor.”
“I feel blessed to have had the privilege of working at the University of Georgia for the past 36 years,” Landers said. “Athens is a wonderful community where I have raised my family and had the unwavering support of my wife Pam, my daughter Andrea and my son Drew.”
Landers and Georgia have had an impressive run with 20 Sweet 16s, 11 “Elite Eights” and five Final Fours. Georgia won seven Southeastern Conference championships and four SEC Tournament titles.
“Andy has led our women’s basketball program on an incredible journey for 36 years,” said McGarity, who added that Landers’ Hall of Fame honor “is a testimony to his impact on the world of women’s college basketball.”
Landers was a longtime rival of Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who Monday congratulated Landers via Twitter “on a remarkable career.”
Wrote Summitt: “You were one of the best in the business. Rest, Renew, Enjoy!”
University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead applauded the strong academic record of Landers’ players.
“Aside from his remarkable achievements in athletic competition, I am especially thankful for the importance he has placed on the academic achievement of our student-athletes,” Morehead said. “It is a tremendous accomplishment that every four-year letter winner Andy has coached has graduated from the University of Georgia.”
Georgia played in Final Fours in 1983, 1985, 1995, 1996 and 1999, losing the championship games in 1985 and 1996.
Among Landers’ most accomplished players were Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain, who combined to win six Olympic gold medals. Three of Landers’ players were named National Player of the Year: McClain in 1987, Saudia Roundtree in 1996 and Kelly Miller in 2000.
“Most of all, I want to thank each and every player for committing to the challenge of being the best they could be, because in so doing they contributed to and established a tradition that fewer than a handful can match,” Landers said. “They created a program that ranks among the most elite nationwide.”
Including four years at Roane State, Landers retires with a 949-320 career record. He was 862-299 at Georgia and took teams to the postseason in all but three of his 36 seasons.
He earned his 850th career win at Georgia on Nov. 29 when the Lady Bulldogs beat Tennessee Tech, his alma mater. Only seven other men’s or women’s coaches have won 850 games at one school: Summitt, Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Geno Auriemma (Connecticut), Dean Smith (North Carolina) and Adolph Rupp (Kentucky).