ON CAMPUS A look at the area college sports scene

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Yale's Gobrecht notches 500th win

Yale cruised past Cornell in women's basketball on Friday to give coach Chris Gobrecht her 500th win.
Here was my preview on the game:

NEW HAVEN – Yale women’s basketball coach Chris Gobrecht has never shied away from a challenge. That’s what makes her impending 500th win all the more impressive.
Gobrecht, the 30th winningest active coach in women’s basketball goes for the milestone tonight as Yale hosts Cornell at 7 p.m. at the Lee Amphitheater. The Bulldogs are 12-8 overall and 4-2 in the Ivy League.
In her 32nd year on the sidelines, Gobrecht is a portrait of irony. She hates to lose and then takes over struggling programs that defy the odds.
Her entire family seems to relish the challenge. Gobrecht’s son, Eric, is a C-5 pilot with the Air Force currently flying missions out of Afghanistan. Her daughter Madeline shunned other offers to play basketball at Yale and her husband Bob has left top positions with the Seattle Mariners, Anaheim Angels and others to be with his wife as she trekked around the country at various coaching jobs. He is currently the President and Managing Director of Special Olympics North America,
Chris Gobrecht is the architect of the family. Rebuilding is her niche.
“It’s funny that I despise losing and yet I put myself in positions where it could happen,” she said.
Yale is Gobrecht’s fifth Division I reclamation project. After turning around a failing program at Cal State Fullerton, Gobrecht turned Washington into one of the elite teams in the nation. The Huskies were ranked as high as third in the country and became a fixture in the NCAA tournament advancing to the Elite Eight in 1990.
She had eight 20-win campaigns at Washington and is a two-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year. Her 1990 win over Stanford, which was undefeated and ranked No. 1 at the time, is still one of the highlights of her coaching life.
“When we beat Stanford it was a huge thing as far as turning things around,” Gobrecht said. “It was like at UConn. Geno (Auriemma) was there around 10 years and there wasn’t much going on and then things took off.
“Stanford ended up winning the national championship that year and we had lost to them by 40 earlier in the season. We were really good but we weren’t at their level but when they came to our place it was sold-out and when we beat them. From that point on the program was off and running.”
Washington won 28 games that season but Gobrecht, frankly, got bored, and after 11 years sought out another challenge. A year later she returned to the Pac-10 to help rebuild the program at USC, never concerned about her personal record on the sidelines.
“I think the win-loss record in college basketball is the most overrated statistic there is,” Gobrecht said. “It all depends on who you play. You see those schools all the time that are 14-2 going into conference play and then they go 6-10 in the conference.
“I think there are a lot of great coaches who don’t win all the time and there are a lot of coaches who win that aren’t great coaches. When you coach as long as I’ve had it’s not that big a deal to get to 500 wins. You can really manipulate your win-loss record.”
That’s something Gobrecht has never done, not at Washington when her team was one of the best in the country and not at Yale despite its inherent academic challenges. Earlier this season Yale played a stretch of games that put them on the road at top-ranked Baylor, No.12 Delaware and at Florida State.
Yale lost them all but their coach thinks it made her team better for it and gave her players lasting memories of the competition they’ve played.
Gobrecht got first-hand experience at how important win totals could be when she was USC. With her team finishing around third or fourth in the rugged Pac-10 she still scheduled difficult non-conference opponents and had to cross her fingers when the NCAA bids came out. Occasionally getting snubbed by the selection committee still burns but she’s never chosen to soften her schedule.
After another fine run at USC, Gobrecht came to Yale and had to start the rebuilding process all over again. Her team went 3-24 her first year.
“I guess I look for these jobs because I’m a fighter by nature,” she said. “I like the underdog. Rebuilding is my niche and I’m happier trying to prove I can do things that people say you can’t do.”
Gobrecht led Yale to a dozen wins in 2006 and 14 more last season including one of the most memorable victories of her career.
“Beating Florida State (ranked 14ht at the time) was the most improbable win I’ve been associated with,” she said. “The game was going on and we were so close and then it was, ‘Wow, we’re actually going to win.’”
In the 38 years of the program it was the first time Yale ever beat a ranked opponent. Yale then swept rival Harvard and finished second in the Ivy League at 10-4. The Bulldogs earned a berth in the WNIT after the season, its first in program history.
Gobrecht said she’s a better coach now than she was when she was in her thirties and said she’s never worked as hard as she is currently doing. She said she still recruits the same players at Yale that she always has but “they just have to have better grades.” She also said she is enjoying herself now perhaps more than ever before.
And Yale gave Gobrecht a memory she will never forget when she coached her daughter Mady for the past four years. Mady Gobrecht was a gritty undersized post player who earned All-Ivy honors last season averaging 12 ppg and 6.3 rebounds.
“It was the highlight of my life,” Gobrecht said. “I always say that she came to Yale in spite of me, not because of me, but I was just thrilled to coach her and it’s made us very close.”
Yale could be her last stop, unless she just wins too much.
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