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Goestenkors leaves Duke, heads for Texas

DURHAM, N.C. -- Gail Goestenkors accomplished just about
everything she could at Duke, from winning five Atlantic Coast
Conference championships to reaching four Final Fours.

The only thing that eluded her is a national title. She's off to
Texas to find it.

The coach who built a powerhouse during her 15 seasons coaching
the Blue Devils' women's team resigned Tuesday to take over at
Texas, replacing Hall of Famer Jody Conradt.

"In the end, it came down to her seeking a new challenge at
this stage in her career and her life," Duke athletic director Joe
Alleva said in a statement. "While we are disappointed that she
has chosen to leave, we have to look forward now and search for the
best women's basketball coach for Duke University."

The 44-year-old coach won seven ACC coach of the year awards and
compiled a career record of 396-99. The move was not a big surprise
-- she was widely considered the top candidate to replace Conradt
after the Longhorn's coach suddenly resigned last month.

The decision came less than a week after about 200 fans gathered
outside Cameron Indoor Stadium in hopes of persuading Goestenkors -- who was honored with the Naismith Women's College Coach of the Year award on Tuesday and named The Associated Press women's basketball coach of the year on
Saturday -- to stay with the Blue Devils. But on Tuesday afternoon,
there was little activity around Cameron as Goestenkors met with
her players off campus to inform them of her decision.

"Ever since she first told us that she was considering another
job, I thought it was a 50-50 chance that she might leave," junior
guard Wanisha Smith said. "With the decision made that she is
leaving, I am happy for her.

"Of course, we don't want her to go. If she feels like that is
the decision she needs to make and is best for her, we need to
respect that."

The night Conradt retired, Texas officials made it clear they
would be willing to pay for a top-notch coach. Conradt earned
$550,000 a year. While Goestenkors' salary at Duke is not a public
record, it was believed the private school wasn't likely to match a
high offer from the Longhorns.

Officials at Texas, including women's athletic director Chris
Plonsky, declined to comment Tuesday. University regents scheduled
a Thursday teleconference to approve hiring a new coach, and the
school scheduled a news conference for that morning.

"I truly believe that this university did everything in its
power to keep her here," said Jack Winters, director of the
university's Iron Dukes -- which raises money to fund athletic
scholarships. "I'd be shocked if it came down to a dollar figure.
That's just not who Gail is and it's also not who Duke is."

Goestenkors visited the Texas campus last week, when she met
with Plonsky and members of the school's search committee and
toured the Longhorns' 44,000-square-foot practice facilities.

In a statement last week, Goestenkors said she admired the
program built by Conradt, who spent 31 seasons at Texas and won her
only national championship in an unbeaten season in 1986. She
retired with a career record of 900-306 in 38 seasons at Sam
Houston State, Texas-Arlington and Texas.

Conradt and Tennessee's Pat Summitt are the only Division I
coaches with 900 or more victories, but the Longhorns last made the
Final Four in 2003.

That tradition seemed to intrigue Goestenkors. The Longhorns
also boasted a program regarded as one of the nation's best, with
first-rate facilities and a recruiting pipeline to 1,300 Texas high
schools. Goestenkors already has established herself with those
schools, signing All-American senior Lindsey Harding out of the
Houston area.

Those factors surely provided an attractive alternative to a
program where Goestenkors, who led the Blue Devils to two trips to
the national championship game, had come up just short of taking
the final step.

"I know this was an extremely difficult decision for her,"
Duke president Richard Brodhead said in a statement, "but
ultimately the lure of a new challenge outweighed her many ties at
Duke."

Her last Duke team was one of her best. The Blue Devils (32-2)
won a school-record 30 straight games, ended the regular season
ranked No. 1 and held the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
But they were upset in the regional semifinals by Rutgers when
Harding missed a pair of free throws with 0.1 seconds left in the
53-52 loss.

Duke is now left to search for a women's basketball coach for
the first time since Goestenkors was hired in 1992 to replace
Debbie Leonard. And that coach will be charged with maintaining
Duke's position as one of the nation's elite programs -- a position
largely reached by the Blue Devils' departing coach.

"We are confident that we will attract a coach with excellent
leadership skills who fits best into our mission as an athletic
department," Alleva said. "That process has already started. It
will continue until we find the coach who wants to lead this
program to even greater heights in the future."