Friday, March 25, 2011

Debbie Ryan: Is it really her time to go?

Maybe I'm wrong about Debbie Ryan. Maybe she wasn't pushed out the door at Virginia, where she has been head coach for the last 34 years, compiling 739 victories.Maybe this was all her decision. But listening to Ryan's emotional press conference two days after athletic director Craig Littlepage announced Virginia would be seeking another coach was gut wrenching.

We read the message boards and know the sentiment many share. Virginia fans haven't been happy for a while. The Cavaliers, whose last appearance in the Final Four was 1992, haven't advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament since 2000. They won five games in the ACC last year and lost in the first round of the ACC Tournament.

What we see is a woman who is a marvelous ambassador to the sport. She runs a clean program, graduates her kids and has had no shortage of All-Americans along the way, including 2010 graduate Monica Wright. The winning hasn't been as plentiful for a program that used to be a leader in an ACC that has seen Miami and Florida State elevate their programs and join heavyweights Duke, Maryland and North Carolina. And  yes, Virginia has all the resources to be right there with those schools.

But does anyone truly believe Ryan has lost her fast ball, that the game has "passed her by." Frankly, what if Jazzmin Walters doesn't drain that 3-pointer in the Constant Center in the NCAA second round with 4.8 seconds left in OT in 2008? As impressive as a win as that was for ODU, they were playing against a higher seed on their home floor.  In the books it's yet another year when Virginia didn't get to the Sweet 16.

We're softies for folks we like at LadySwish. We like Ryan. We've seen up close how she connects with young women, a role many longtime coaches reserve for their assistants. She breathes this, lives for it and is indeed the best Debbie Ryan she could possibly be. Bria Smith, the No 8 recruit in the country didn't just want to play for Virginia as much as she wanted to play for Ryan. We can understand why.

Does all of this mean Ryan has earned the right to coach at Virginia forever? Close to it, we say. You better be careful when you start shoving legends like Ryan out the door. The reality is it has all become as unpleasant as corporate America's what have you done for me lately? philosophy. Ryan's Cavaliers played a brutal nonconference schedule that didn't afford them many victories. They struggled in the ACC. Just like we look to the quarterback when things go wrong, we look to the coach.

Problem is when we look at Ryan, we like what we see.

1 comment:

  1. She was clearly pushed out the door.

    UVA program is already suffering as they lost a franchise player in Smith who would have combined with Franklin and the rapidly improving Crosby (who is just know getting healthy again)to form the best backcouirt in the ACC for the next two years.

    That is all gone now with a previously committted (but not obligated to sign) top 10 recruiting class for 2012 in the balance as well.

    Foolish, foolish move at UVA by a new President - FYI the AD cannot fire a coach under contract to the Board of Visitors.