- Special Report: Changing of the Guard

Late April would normally be a time of little news from the world of women’s college basketball. The Madness of March has come and gone, and for most teams and their fans it is simply time to reflect on last season’s fortunes and look forward to what the next campaign might bring. For the Michigan Wolverine women’s hoops program, there was more than the usual off-season business to contend with.

On March 25, Coach Sue Guevara announced her resignation from the Michigan head coaching position. This was reported in most news outlets as a resignation, but at least one newspaper (Detroit Free Press) claimed that Guevara had been fired. It is likely that this was one of those situations where the coach was allowed to resign rather than being fired. Whatever the case, Sue Guevara would no longer be the coach at Michigan. Her tenure got off to a great start, with six straight winning seasons and five appearances in either the NCAA or NIT post season tournaments. Things began to go bad during Coach Guevara’s sixth season, 2001-02. The team did very well in the non-conference part of the schedule, winning 10 of 11 games. They did not do as well in Big Ten league play, winning six and losing ten. The 2002-03 season was even more difficult. Once again Michigan did well enough in the early going, with a 9-2 non-conference mark. The Big Ten part of the season proved to be a near total disaster, as the Wolverines could muster only three wins against 13 defeats. Offensive production was a particular problem, as the team suffered through a number of scoring slumps.

By the end of the season, it was clear that something had gone very wrong with the Michigan women’s basketball program. While many factors may have contributed to this, in the end it is the head coach that is responsible for the success of a team. That being said, the news of Coach Guevara’s departure was definitely sad. It is a shame that her time at Michigan had to end this way, and I for one wish her all the best luck in finding another job and hope that things go better for her in the future. I only hope that she does not end up with another Big Ten team, because then she might come back to haunt Michigan!

The process of finding a replacement for Sue Guevara began right away. A number of names were mentioned, and by mid-April the interviews were underway. On Monday, April 21, Associate Athletic Director Megan McCallister introduced the new Michigan women’s basketball coach, Cheryl Burnett.

Cheryl Burnett played college basketball at the University of Kansas from 1977 to 1980. Following graduation, she joined the staff at the University of Illinois where she remained until 1984 as an assistant coach. She then took a similar job at Southwest Missouri State, and moved up to the head coaching position at SMSU in 1987. Burnett led the Southwest Missouri program for the next 15 seasons, winning 319 games while losing only 136 for a winning percentage of .701.

Burnett’s teams posted 20 or more wins in ten of her 15 seasons, and made 10 appearances in the NCAA tournament. Her 1991-92 team finished with a record of 31 wins and only three losses, and was one of two of her teams to make it to the Final Four of the NCAA tourney. From 1990-91 to 1995-96, SMSU won six consecutive conference championships. Her teams defeated a number of highly ranked opponents from major conferences. As far as individual players who played for Burnett, Jackie Stiles is likely the best known.

With the hiring of Cheryl Burnett, Michigan women’s basketball gets a coach with a solid track record of success. The 2003-04 season will be the beginning of bigger and better things for the Michigan women’s basketball program. As I have done so often in the past, I encourage all who read this column to actively support Coach Burnett and the team. Join the M-Zone women’s basketball booster club as a season ticket holder, and go to as many games as you possibly can!

Until next season…Hail to the Victors Valiant and Let’s Go Blue!

Vince Prygoski

Vince Prygoski, is the Women's basketball columnist for UMGoBlue.com. He's been a fan of Michigan sports for as long as he can remember.
He has written a book on the history of Michigan women's basketball that will be published soon.

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