KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Texas A&M women's basketball head coach Gary Blair was inducted to the prestigious Women's Basketball Hall of Fame alongside five additional members of the Class of 2013 on Saturday evening.
Blair became the first basketball hall of fame inductee from Texas A&M in either men's or women's basketball.
"I have had the great opportunity to interact with the other inductees having either coached or coached against them and it will be an honor to stand beside them as we are inducted this weekend," Blair said. "When you begin your career you do not even think of the Hall of Fame, you dream of NCAA Tournament appearances, Final Fours or the ultimate dream of a National Championship. The Hall of Fame is never one of your goals, because nobody can make the Hall without great teammates or assistant coaches. The honor is mind-boggling because of who is already in the Hall of Fame and to think that some of my former players or assistants will hopefully be able to join me in Knoxville really makes me appreciate how fortunate I am to have had their support throughout my career."
A two-time national finalist for the prestigious Naismith Coach of the Year Award, Blair is now 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 six 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 eight straight NCAA Tournament appearances and produced A&M's only first-team All-American in Danielle Adams. In addition, the Aggies have captured four conference trophies in the last seven years.
"Coach Blair is very deserving of being inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame,” Texas A&M Athletic Director Eric Hyman said. “He has become an icon in the world of women's basketball and will be a long time legend in the Texas A&M athletic annals. One of the most important qualities he possesses, besides the obvious ability to recruit and coach, is his leadership off the court. He truly cares about his players as people and works to guide them to be successful after their sports career has ended. We are very proud of all his accomplishments and are pleased he is being recognized nationally with his induction."
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 645-233 overall record (.735).
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 28-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 27 winning seasons, 22 20-win seasons, 19 NCAA Tournament appearances and 30 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 237-100 record (.703) after 10 seasons in Aggieland, including eight 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 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 were formally introduced at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in front of a capacity crowd at the Bijou Theatre. The day’s events began with an autograph session from the 2013 inductees followed by a Gala Reception hosted by Tennessee Head Coach Holly Warlick and Connecticut Head Coach Geno Auriemma at the East Tennessee Historical Center. Following the induction ceremony the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame hosted a post-induction celebration and silent auction.
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 or the 2013 WBHOF Induction Ceremony please visit www.wbhof.com.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT COACH BLAIR
"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. 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)
“Gary Blair is very deserving of a place among the best collegiate women's basketball coaches. He has been a substantial contributor to the game and its participants. The development of student-athletes, academically, athletically and socially has been and continues to be the hallmark of his success. While the student-athletes he has coached and the universities he has represented have benefitted from his leadership and expertise, he has also been an exceptional spokesperson for all of collegiate women's basketball throughout his career. We are extremely proud of Gary and are appreciate of his efforts on behalf of Texas A&M.
- Marcy Girton, Texas A&M Chief of Staff
"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.
"I have great respect and admiration for Gary Blair. He has been successful at every stop…high school, assistant coach at Louisiana Tech and as a head coach at Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas and now at Texas A&M. Not only is he an excellent coach, he's a great representative of women's basketball. Coach Blair has always conducted his business in a fair and honorable way and the results have been off the chart. He is most deserving of Hall of Fame recognition and all of us in the Southeastern Conference are proud of his accomplishments."
- Andy Landers, Georgia Women's Basketball Head Coach, Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (2003)
“Gary joined my staff at Louisiana Tech and left to go on to become one of the real great coaches that women’s basketball has ever had. I am glad he is finally getting the recognition that he deserves. Coach Blair is one of the few people to go out and promote the women’s game to everyone he meets and going into the Hall of Fame is a well-deserved honor for Gary. What really sets him apart is the tremendous work ethic and basketball mind that has that is constantly trying to make him and his team better, most cannot match the effort that Coach Blair puts into this great sport.”
- 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)
“This is a tremendous honor for a tremendous coach. His expertise is second to none. I’ve always been amazed at how fast he saw the game and his ability to convey that to our players in the heat of battle. It’s an honor to have been on his bench for over half of his victories. To have the opportunity to work for a Hall of Fame coach for 15 years is truly a blessing. His impact on my career as well as the careers of other coaches across the country is immeasurable. Congratulations Coach Blair on your induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. It’s well-deserved.”
- Vic Schaefer, Mississippi State Head Coach (Member of Coach Blair’s staff for 15 years)
"No coach deserves this more than Gary Blair, for all that he has accomplished at every level of coaching from high school head coach, college assistant and then as a college head coach. To be inducted into one of the most prestigious Hall of Fames in all of sports is something that has been a long time coming for such a great coach and an even better person. I am proud to say I will be in attendance for Gary’s induction as not only a colleague, but also a friend."
- Van Chancellor, Former LSU Women's Basketball Coach (2007-11), Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (2001)