Coach Grentz calling it quits



By Dave Fultz

Theresa Grentz stepped down as coach of the Illinois women’s basketball team Tuesday to pursue other career opportunities. Grentz just finished her 12th season at Illinois (33rd overall) and was a Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductee in 2001. Grentz leaves the program with a strong foundation and is Illinois’ all-time winningest women’s basketball coach.

Upon announcing her decision, she took the time to reflect on her time at Illinois and those who have helped her along the way.

“I thank the University of Illinois, the Big Ten Conference, the outstanding fans in our community, and the wonderful staff who have worked with me throughout the years,” Grentz said. “I especially want to thank each and every player who has played for me. Watching the players grow, succeed and move into the next phases of their lives has been the most meaningful part of my career. Each person touched my life in a special way and I’ll forever be indebted. They have given me far more than I will ever be able to give to them.”

While she didn’t specify what the coming months held for her, Grentz spoke of her future.

“I know there is still something out there for me,” Grentz said. “Whether it be as a collegiate or professional coach, a position in the academic world, working with women’s issues, or possibly even politics. I feel I can make a difference in some professional way. Coaching has provided me a very broad-based horizon, insight, perception and a dynamic way of looking at things.”

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The Hall of Fame coach has amassed an impressive 671-311 (.683) record in her 33 seasons as a collegiate head coach, making her the 10th-winningest coach in Division I history. After 19 years and one National Championship at Rutgers, Grentz led the Illini to 10 playoff appearances in her 12 seasons and the school’s only Big Ten title in 1997. Grentz won back-to-back Big Ten Coach of the Year awards in 1997 and 1998 and had international success when she led the 1992 U.S. Olympic team to a bronze medal in Barcelona.

“I can’t tell you what a joy it’s been,” Grentz said. “I will always consider myself a part of this family. My boys are here, but it’s time. It is time to move on. I’ve really thought about this and I’ve really contemplated this for quite a while. My heart is telling me at this point that it’s time.”

Grentz told her players just before she met with the media at the Ubben Basketball Complex.

“We are all kind of stunned at this point,” sophomore guard Lori Bjork said. “It’s always tough to see someone you have built a relationship with leave, but I’m glad that it was on her terms.”

Bjork then shared a piece of what Grentz told the team during their meeting.

“Coach said it best: We should look at it like a celebration of her career and all she’s accomplished,” Bjork said. “For us to have even been a part of that is something special that we can carry with us.”

“I’ve had a great ride,” Grentz said. “The things I’ve done, the places I’ve been, the travels, the players, the people. Who gets to do that? How privileged, how blessed, how fortunate.

“I just knew at this point that everything is in order. The academics are there, the faculty has been marvelous, and the team’s all returning.”

As the team looks to the future, they will start the search for a new head coach immediately.

According to Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther, a national search will be conducted to find the right person for the job and that a new head coach could be introduced in a minimum of three weeks. When asked where his search would lead him, the answer was simple.

“I’m going to hire the best basketball coach,” Guenther said.

Daily Illini reporter Courtney Linehan contributed to this report.