LITTLE ROCK -- Arkansas women's basketball coach Susie
Gardner resigned Friday after her team faltered down the stretch
for the second straight season.
The Lady Razorbacks were knocked out of the Southeastern
Conference tournament Thursday when they lost 72-57 to Kentucky.
That was Arkansas' 10th straight defeat. The Lady Razorbacks ended
an injury-plagued 2005-06 season with nine consecutive losses.
"We didn't turn the corner as fast as I had hoped, and
different circumstances seemed to prevent that from happening as
quickly as I wanted," Gardner said in a statement Friday. "The
opportunity to work with the wonderful people at the university,
the great supporters we have at Arkansas and to coach great players
has been something I will never forget."
Women's athletic director Bev Lewis said she met with Gardner on
"We appreciate Susie's efforts, and wish her well in her future
endeavors," Lewis said. "We talked at length today, and we were
in agreement that there was a need for change."
Lewis said she will handle the search for a replacement herself.
Gardner took over as Lady Razorbacks coach before the 2003-04
season and went 64-54. But Arkansas never made the NCAA tournament
with her at the helm. The previous coach, Gary Blair, went to the
Final Four in 1998 and had made the tournament three straight
seasons when he went from Arkansas to Texas A&M in '03.
Gardner took the Lady Razorbacks to the WNIT in 2005, but Lewis
said Arkansas will not play in it this season.
"With the way the season ended, we're probably better off just
letting it end right now," she said.
Arkansas' bizarre 2006-07 season included a school-record 15-1
start, then a school-record losing streak at the end that dropped
the Lady Razorbacks' overall mark to 18-13. Arkansas was in the Top
25 earlier this season but stumbled to a 3-11 regular-season record
in the tough SEC.
The Lady Razorbacks were 16-40 in SEC regular-season games under
Gardner played at Georgia during the mid-1980s and was a head
coach at Anderson College (1988-92) and Austin Peay (1995-2003)
before coming to Arkansas. Gardner took Austin Peay to the NCAA
tournament three straight times before joining the Lady Razorbacks.
At the SEC tournament in Duluth, Ga., other coaches expressed
surprise at the news.
"We talk as colleagues," Mississippi coach Carol Ross said.
"I knew she was struggling emotionally but I really hate that
because Susie is a ballcoach. Susie is a coach. For whatever
reason, she was struggling at Arkansas, probably because that's
what the SEC is, but she needs to be coaching."