COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Texas A&M women's basketball head coach Gary Blair was named one of only six inductees to the prestigious Women's Basketball Hall of Fame's Class of 2013, it was released Monday.
The announcement of the WBHOF's 15th class of inductees came on ESPN2 at halftime of the USA versus Brazil game at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.
Blair will become the first basketball hall of fame inductee from Texas A&M in either men's or women's basketball.
"The honor is humbling, and I feel I should be thanking players, assistant coaches and administrators for their belief in me instead of receiving accolades for what I consider a team award," Blair said. "The roll call of people that are in the Hall of Fame is mind boggling. So many of them have helped shape my life in coaching as mentors, role models and players I have had an opportunity to coach or compete against. Their legacy, the love of the game and the love of my players keeps me driven. I am thankful to continue to Build Champions here at Texas A&M."
A two-time national finalist for the prestigious Naismith Coach of the Year Award, Blair will now be a member of five Hall of Fame classes, including induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2011, the Southland Conference Hall of Honor in 2009, the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjack Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. He was also honored with the 2011 New York Athletic Club's Winged Foot Award, which is presented annually to the winning coaches of the men's and women's NCAA Division I Basketball Championships.
With Blair at the helm, Texas A&M has elevated into one of the nation's elite programs. The Aggies have advanced to at least the NCAA Sweet 16 four of the last five years, earned a trip to the Elite Eight in 2008 and won the program's first national championship in 2011. Blair has guided A&M to a program-best No. 1 ranking in the national polls, a school-record seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances and produced A&M's only first-team All-American in Danielle Adams. In addition, the Aggies have captured three overall conference crowns in the last six years.
"I have watched Coach Blair's coaching career from a distance and have admired his work," Eric Hyman, incoming Texas A&M Director of Athletics said. "He is very deserving of this honor. I have heard nothing but positive things about him and I look forward to working with him at Texas A&M. Gary knows how much my wife, Pauline, and I love women's basketball."
One of the winningest active Division I coaches in the women's game today, Blair is one of only three all-time NCAA Division I women's basketball coaches to lead two different teams to the NCAA Women's Final Four (Texas A&M and Arkansas). He currently ranks in the top 15 in career victories and in the top 25 by winning percentage among active Division I coaches with an impressive 620-253 overall record (.710).
The all-time winningest women's basketball coach in Texas A&M history and the 2007 Big 12 Coach of the Year, Blair claimed his 600th career coaching victory in 2011 to become the 22nd all-time NCAA Division I coach to reach the milestone. He also holds the distinction of being one of only six coaches in NCAA history to take three schools to the NCAA Tournament.
Over the course of his 27-year collegiate coaching career, which includes stops at Stephen F. Austin from 1985-93 and Arkansas from 1993-03, Blair has led his teams to 26 winning seasons, 21 20-win seasons, 18 NCAA Tournament appearances and 29 NCAA postseason victories. Blair has won a championship at every level of his coaching career including three state championships at Dallas South Oak Cliff High School, two national championships as an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech, a WNIT Championship at Arkansas and a national championship at Texas A&M.
Blair previously led the Lady Razorbacks to the 1998 NCAA Final Four and the Lady Jacks to four NCAA Sweet 16 appearances. He has followed that path of success at Texas A&M where he has put together a 212-90 record (.702) after nine seasons in Aggieland, including seven consecutive 20-win campaigns since 2005.
The other members of the WBHOF Class of 2013 are Jim Foster (coach), Peggie Gillom-Granderson (player), Jen Rizzotti (player), Annette Smith-Knight (player) and Sue Wicks (player).
Gillom-Granderson was the the head coach at Texas A&M prior to Blair, from 1998-03. She compiled a record of 53-86 over those five seasons. While at A&M, Gillom-Granderson served as an assistant coach for the 2000 USA Basketball Olympic Team in Sydney, Australia, helping guide the team to a gold medal.
Blair and the Class of 2013 will be formally introduced at the 2012 State Farm Tip-Off Classic on Nov.13 in Waco, Texas, and inducted into the WBHOF on June 8, 2013, in Knoxville, Tenn.
About the WBHOF Inductees
The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame's Board of Directors serves as the selection committee in determining which individuals will be inducted each year and which groups will be honored as "Trailblazers of the Game". Voting is based on various factors, including moral character, integrity, sportsmanship, record of performance, ability, national or international recognition and contributions to the game of women's basketball.
In order to be considered for selection for induction, an individual must meet the following prerequisites:
Player: Must be retired from the highest level of play for at least five years
Coach: Must have coached the women's game at least 20 years
Referee: Must have officiated the women's game at least 10 years
Contributor: Must have significantly impacted the game of women's basketball
For information regarding the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, the 2013 WBHOF Induction Ceremony or the State Farm Tip-Off Classic please visit www.wbhof.com.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT COACH BLAIR
"This honor is well-deserved. Gary is one of those special individuals that has had a lasting impact on every program he has been associated with. I've known Gary for many years and have witnessed the positive impact he has had on women's basketball at every stop from his high school days in Dallas to the collegiate level. I have a great appreciation for his passion, enthusiasm and his coaching ability. He took a program that had not finished higher than ninth in the Big 12 before he came, to winning a national championship (2011) which is remarkable."
- Dr. John Thornton, Texas A&M Interim Director of Athletics (Former Aggie men's basketball player and nine year Aggie assistant men's basketball coach)
"What makes Gary worthy as an inductee into the Hall of Fame is that he has been so very successful on the court, off the court and in each community he's coached. He has always been such a big advocate for the game of women's basketball. You could call him a friend of the game because of all he's contributed. He is certainly worthy. I've known him for a long time and his passion for teaching, mentoring and his love of the game is still there."
- Sue Donohoe, Executive Director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund (Former NCAA Vice President, Division I Women's Basketball)
"A big congratulations to Gary Blair on being named to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2013. It is a tremendous honor for Coach Blair, his family and the young women he has mentored. He has been a key contributor to the growth of women's basketball and it has been a privilege to showcase his programs on ESPN networks."
- Carol Stiff, ESPN Vice President, Programming & Acquisitions.
"Gary Blair has achieved tremendous success at every level. He is a tireless worker and has essentially taken programs at every stop in his coaching career and built them into nationally-respected basketball programs. He was a standout high school coach and an outstanding college assistant. He won big at Stephen F. Austin, took Arkansas to the Final Four and won a national championship at Texas A&M. He is obviously one of the outstanding coaches in the game and most deserving of his future induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame."
- Andy Landers, Georgia Women's Basketball Head Coach, Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (2003)
"This honor really is long overdue. The deal with Coach Blair is that he's a builder of programs. It's pretty apparent what he's done. Starting from scratch and building programs everywhere he's been. The thing that sets him apart is he's such a tireless worker. There's not one person that's ever worked harder in women's basketball to get where they are today. Very few people have promoted the game the way he has. It's a well-deserved honor and I'm tremendously proud of him."
- Leon Barmore, Former Louisiana Tech Head Coach (1982-02), Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (2003), Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (2003)
"I'm so thrilled for Gary that he's going to be inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. What a tremendous honor. He's given so much to the game and he is so deserving of this recognition."
- Van Chancellor, Former LSU Women's Basketball Coach (2007-11), Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (2001)