Thursday, September 24, 2015

ODU's Mery Andrade now Coach Andrade

Remember that movie "There's Something About Mary"? Well, we spell Mery differently in this blog, and we've always known there's something about Mery Andrade that would make her a great asset to any coaching staff.

Nobody outworked the Old Dominion defensive menace, whose expressions of absolute disbelief when called for a block still tickle us inside some 18 years after the Lady Monarchs advanced to the national title game. Andrade, along with her buds Ticha Penicheiro and Clarisse Machanguana, were part of that Portuguese connection that the ODU fan base adored during a magical time in the program's storied history.

Andrade, the soul of the 1997 team that finished 34-2, was co-CAA Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in 1998-99.

Alas, Mery is finally done terrorizing the opposition's best offensive player, deciding to join the
coaching ranks. Earlier this month, former ODU assistant Cindy Fisher (who coached alongside Wendy Larry in '97) added Andrade to her staff at the University of San Diego. Fisher has been head coach there for a decade.

Andrade retired in May after a long club career in Italy and previously, Portugal. She played in the WNBA, primarily for the former Cleveland team, for five seasons.

"It really is over," she said, genuine wistfulness in her voice. "I keep telling myself it is over. All this practice already with the girls; I want to be playing with them, but can't do."

Andrade said she still feels healthy, "Last year I played 40 minutes, but you know, I'll be 40 this year. I had to stop, and this opportunity came, and I'm really excited about it. All the energy I had when I played, I want to put into coaching. This is a dream come true. I said yes, and didn't think twice."

Shortly after Andrade had knee surgery five years ago, she received a call from ODU coach Karen Barefoot about an assistant position, but it wasn't the right time. "I didn't want my memories of basketball to be from an injury," she said.

Now, with her playing days behind her, she joins a San Diego team that has produced four straight 20-win seasons and is looking to return to the national tournament for the first time since 2008.

Andrade said when she visualizes herself as a coach, she's wants to be open to player needs. "There's no, 'It's my way or the highway,' because in my career I learned so much from every coach I had. They weren't all good things, but I even learned from the bad things. I want to see what fits the players because I don't think a coach should have ideas she doesn't consider changing."

Don't think Andrade doesn't bring in some expectations. She won't back down, she said, from what got her this far in the game. "Intensity, heart -- those are values, not just ways of coaching," she said. "I want to keep the values I grew up with and the work ethic."

While Andrade's college days seem like ions ago in some respects, she hasn't forgotten what she describes as a "short but intense" time. "I bring it with me in everything I do."

The Final Four year, she says, taught her, "When you find yourself in an environment you love, time flies by. That year was like that. The experience in college, I don't know when one year finished and the next started. It was just a ride. It was pure adrenalin in growing and the experience we went through was the best."

She has reminisced with Fisher and fellow San Diego resident Aubrey Eblin and Clar and Ticha, of course. Ticha was her agent this year, and she talks weekly with Clar. She was last at ODU when she was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2010.

Don't look for Mery too close to the East any time soon; the Toreros get no closer to our parts than a trip to Montana State. But she'd welcome a game in the Constant Center.

"That would be my past and my present coming together," she said.

Lady Monarch fans have expressed their congrats to Coach Andrade.

"They've followed my career when I played and now here," she said. "They're like family."

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