Conradt won 783 games in 31 seasons at UT
Posted January 28th, 2016
Jody Conradt has watched the University of Texas women’s basketball team grow since 1976, her first season with the Longhorns. Over the last 40 years her eyes have witnessed the program as a head coach, athletic director and athletics department official. Here are some of her recollections of a program that earned its 1,000th all-time victory Wednesday night against Kansas.
AA-S: First of all, how is your golf game?
JC: It’s a lot like getting on a roller-coaster at Six Flags. Sometimes it’s really, really good and sometimes it’s really, really bad.
AA-S: If you were to describe women’s basketball at Texas in one word, what would it be?
AA-S: Why exciting?
JC: I feel a bit of ownership at what happens with this program and I love the passion it brings. I love this institution and I’d like to see every sport win championships.
AA-S: Coach Bill Fennelly of Iowa State said he was excited to see you before a game a few weeks ago. Do you still have a good relationship with former adversaries?
JC: When you’re in the coaching fraternity, you have a different kind of camaraderie. We were coaching when women’s basketball didn’t have a lot of credibility and visibility. So it wasn’t unusual for the No. 1 team and the No. 2 team to play each other. No one shied away from putting the best product we could on the court.
AA-S: Is that how the Texas-Tennessee rivalry was born?
JC: Before we started playing Tennessee, the team to beat was Stephen F. Austin. They have been giving scholarships to basketball players long before Texas did. They were the standard. The first time we had 8,000-plus to a home game, it was against Stephen F. Austin.
AA-S: There are a few other schools that have already reached 1,000 victories. What about them?
JC: Louisiana Tech was way out of our league initially. They had a lot of talent. Old Dominion was another team we had to play a while before we could hold our own. If you set your standards high, you need to play the best. You’re not going to win right away but it teaches your players where they need to be.
AA-S: UConn seems unbeatable today. But there was a time Texas seemed to be unbeatable too.
JC: Beating UConn will eventually happen. If you go back to the history of the Southwest Conference and remember the winning streak we had (183 straight victories from 1978-1990), teams get tired of losing. It’s a little like the four-minute mile. How many years did that seem unattainable? Once it happen, a lot of people broke it.
AA-S: When you attend Texas games today, do you watch as a coach or as a fan?
JC: A little bit of both. I think every fan has an idea of what they’d like to see. I think Karen (Aston) is doing a great job.
AA-S: Do you speak to Karen often?
JC: When you become the head coach, there’s a certain ownership you take with the job. So when we talk, it’s usually about issues surrounding the program, not what’s happening on the court.
AA-S: How confident were you in Karen when she was hired?
JC: A lot of coaches who are hired at Texas don’t realize the difficulty of the job. You have to recruit, find players who will fit in here. They need to know all the fundamentals of the program. With Karen, she already had experience here when she coached with us (1998-2006). The learning curve was shorter because she had already been here.
AA-S: Besides winning the NCAA championship with a 34-0 record, what do you remember most about the 1986 team?
JC: I remember just how competitive they were. Not only did they hold themselves to a high standard, they held each other to a high standard. We had six seniors on that team.
AA-S: Did losing to Western Kentucky in the Sweet 16 round of 1985 motivate that team to win?
JC: No question. People don’t think about what they went through to get to that point (in 1986). When you lose, you can take one of two paths. They worked really hard to get past that point a year later.
AA-S: You and your 1986 team visited the White House after winning. What was that like?
JC: Well, being in the presence of a sitting president (Ronald Reagan) was amazing to begin. There was a feeling of accomplishment and relief. There was such a range of emotions we felt with that team.
AA-S: You were elected into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1998. Who else in that class were you eager to meet?
JC: You can start with Larry Bird, who was the elite player of his era. I admired how he played. Lenny Wilkins was in that class. One person I enjoyed meeting was Marcus Haynes (of the Harlem Globetrotters). He was the sweetest, kindest man. We talked about the ranch he owned in Lockhart. We got together for a couple events, golf tournaments after that.
AA-S: What is your relationship like with Pat Summitt?
JC: When we were playing each other, it was very competition. After I quit coaching I had more free time and we got a lot closer. But we were close from the beginning. We envisioned the same things for women’s basketball. There were times it might have been easier for us not to play Tennessee and there were times it might not have been easy for Tennessee to play Texas.
AA-S: When they unveiled that statue of you inside the Erwin Center in 2012, Pat had a big role in the ceremony. How did that make you feel?
JC: It was one of the best memories I’ve ever had. The good thing is that I was able to reciprocate when Tennessee unveiled a statue of Pat the following year.