Wendy Larry Goes for her 400th today, but really, who's counting
Feb. 27, 2002
By VICKI FRIEDMAN, The Virginian-Pilot
February 24, 2002 Copyright (c) 2002, The Virginian Pilot. Reprinted Permission.
Norfolk- To Old Dominion coach Wendy Larry, the numbers don't add up to much. But they are hard to overlook.
Career victory No. 350 at her alma mater came Friday at Hofstra. And today, a more noteworthy milestone - her 400th career victory - will be in the books if ODU wins at Drexel. Given that the Lady Monarch have won 135 of their last 136 Colonial Athletic Association games, that one would appear secure.
That would put Larry in the company of 31 other active Division I coaches who have reached that plateau.
Her winning percentage of .733 ranks her 17th among those coaches.
"Four hundred - that's not a small number," ODU senior Lucienne Berthieu said. "It's unbelievable, the effect of everything she's done for women's basketball since she's been here."
Larry can't tell you where she was for victory 100,200 or 300. That's not what the job is about for the New Jersey native who has spent the past 15 years at ODU. Before that, she coached a year at Virginia Wesleyan, served as an ODU assistant under Marianne Stanley from 1979-85, then held the top job at Arizona for two seasons.
Rather than wins, Larry says, it's about relationships, success stories she's been a part of , the game that her passion and the university itself.
"This is my school, it's been part of my life for over half my life," says Larry, 46, a 1977 ODU grad who was a field hockey and basketball player at the school. "I can't imagine Old Dominion not being part of women's basketball. I hope that day never comes..."
Her legacy so far: 10 CAA championships, 13 20-win seasons and 13 appearances in the NCAA tournament, including a trip to the 1997 national title game. Currently vice president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, Larry will be president next year.
The landscape has changed since 1985, Larry's first in Division I, when she led Arizona to a 19-9 record and earned Coach of the Year honors in the Pac-10. Women's basketball is more lucrative, is deeper and continues to grow in the national exposure. Given that, the game receives more attention from the NCAA, and Larry says she is sometimes frustrated by rules that border on being inhumane in their interpretation.
"A professor at the university could take a student to lunch on an occasional basis and probably not be scrutinized, but a coach has to cross T's and dot I's if they are going to take one of their student-athletes to lunch or have them to dinner," Larry says.
"The positive changes are opoortunities for women to complete on this level and be appreciated, not just tolerated. The flip side of that is the impersonal part of the rules that continue to mount up on a year-to-year basis."
And while the opportunities are growing, so is the competition for them, Larry says.
"We've seen quite an influx of male coaches coaching in the women's game," she says, "but we still haven't seen women coaching men. So it's become competitive for us. Now men have two arenas to apply in. We still have one."
Larry said the pressures from the job never disappear.
In 1997, three organizations named Larry National Coach of the Year after ODU's final Four run.
"I thought it would be easy street after that," Larry says. "Truth is, I never worked harder in my life because I wanted to go back so badly."
Part of the work is continually updating her understanding of the game. She counts amoung her influences Stanley and several men's coaches, including Kansas' Roy Williams and Arizona's Lute Olsen.
And then there is Don Meyer, who has won more than 700 games at the NAIA level and has become a guru for coaches nationwide with his clinics and his "Building a Championship Program" videotape series.
"I probably have at least 50 of his person tapes, breaking down every part of the game you can imagine, and I've been to his clinic 12 of 13 times," Larry says. "Those three or four days are almost the best time of the year because they give you so many ideas."
Coming back from the Final Four, Larry promised herself that she would find more enjoyment in the day-to-day par of the game, difficult for a coach whose mind is always moving toward what's next. Savoring too much can take away from valuable prep time, she says, offering this example:
Through pleased with ODU's win last Sunday over James Madison, she still found herself engrossed in the game tape on Monday, seeking ways the Lady Monarchs could improve.
"This sport doesn't allow for a lot of down time," she says.
Larry takes little down time during the season. She will make moment to pull herself away, she says using the time to catch up with close friends, play the piano or spend quality time with Montgomery, the golden retriever she speaks of with tremendous affection.
Still, Larry admits she spends most of her hours wrapped up in a world that begins and ends with basketball. Even she is startled by how little she is aware of the "other" world.
"I don't know the names of the friends on 'Friends,'" she says. "I don't turn on the TV unless I'm watching a game."
But as consumed as she is by X's and O's, Larry says she never tires of watching young players grow - as people more so than players. She gets great satisfaction from seeing so many of the folks she's worked with succeed.
Former assistant coach Alisa Scott is an assistant with the WNBA's Houston comets, former player Regina Miller is shpaing the program at Nevada-Las Vegas, and four of her former players are playing in the WNBA.
"I go home every day and I drive across the twin bridges and I look at the water and think, 'You're lucky,'" Larry says. "I love what I do. I look back over the career I have and could I have done something else? Sure, I probably could have, but would I have had as much enjoyment, fulfillment? I don't think so."