By Philip Casteel email
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Gary Blair is the head coach of the Texas A&M Aggies women's basketball team. He has coached for 38 years and has had very few losing seasons. For the sixth consecutive season, the Texas A&M women's basketball team captured one of the top four seeds and a first-round bye going into the Big 12 Conference Women's Basketball Championship. He is listed in the top 35 of the all-time winningest active NCAA Division 1 women's basketball coaches.
The road to being an award winning coach has not been smooth. Blair was a baseball player in high school at Bryan Adams High School where he received all city honors in 1963. After he graduated High School Blair enrolled at Texas Tech University, where he failed out of architecture. Blair later received a draft notice and decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. After completing a four year tour he went into the restaurant business. At age 27, Blair used his G. I. Bill to earn a Bachelors degree in health and physical education with a minor in journalism from Texas Tech, and later earned his master's degree in education.
After Blair Graduated he landed a physical education job at South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas. South Oak Cliff had just started its women's basketball program, and Blair became the team's first coach. In his seven seasons he set a state record with five consecutive state tournament appearances and a 239-18 record. His teams won three state Class 4A championships.
In October 1980, Blair was offered an assistant coaching job at Louisiana Tech. During his five seasons there, Louisiana Tech reached the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament four times, winning three national championships.
Blair's first head coaching experience at the collegiate level came at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas. In his eight years with the school, he compiled a 210-43 record, including 25 wins in just his second season as a head coach. Blair was inducted into the Ladyjack Hall of Fame on December 2, 2008.
As the head coach of the women's basketball team at Arkansas, Blair had a 198-120 record. In his final season with the Lady Razorbacks, the team finished the season ranked 24th nationally and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
In the summer of 1996, while his Arkansas team was in their off season, Blair spent several months in Taiwan as the assistant coach of the U.S. Jones Cup team, which won the gold medal and became the first U.S. team to be undefeated at the Jones Cup tournament. Every player he helped coach during that tournament later went on to play in the WNBA.
Blair then went to one of the Big 12 Conference's worst teams; Texas A&M. They had not had a winning season in seven years. For the first time in Blair's career, his team suffered a losing season.
In his third season with the Aggies, Blair guided his team to their first Associated Press Top 25 ranking in 10 years. The team finished third in the Big 12 and reached the semifinals in the Big 12 Women's Championship Tournament. Blair is one of only four coaches in NCAA history to take three different schools to the NCAA Tournament. In his first three years as the head coach of the Aggies, A&M home attendance increased 156 percent.
On February 20, 2008, Blair posted his 500th career win as a head coach against the Iowa State Cyclones.
In the 2007–08 season, Blair led his squad to a school-first NCAA Elite Eight appearance and a 29–8 overall record. The record remains to be the winningest season in team history.
The Texas A&M Board of Regents approved a one-year contract extension through 2012 and a $150,000 salary raise to $800,000 annually.
After Marsha Sharp Retired as the Texas Tech women's basketball head coach in 2006, Blair received calls from his friends to take over the position. Blair said "It wasn't the right fit or the right time. Timing is everything in coaching."
Copyright 2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved.