Theresa Grentz spent 33 years as a head coach, including the final 12 season at Illinois. Grentz certainly made her mark nationally in women's basketball. Whether it was coaching the United States Olympic team or winning the national championship, when there was a job to be done, the Grentz name was been synonymous with success. It was only later when they decided to make a movie based on Grentz's career called The Mighty Macs.
Developing a winner at Illinois
Illinois women's basketball reached new heights after the hiring of Grentz on May 15, 1995. Grentz committed herself to making Illinois nationally renowned for its dual commitment to athletic success and academic excellence. Prior to her arrival, the Illini had not reached the post-season in eight years. In 12 seasons under Grentz, the Orange and Blue have advanced to the post-season 10 times, including 10 of the last 11 years.In just her second season at Illinois, Grentz led the Fighting Illini to the program's first-ever Big Ten title in 1997 and first-ever appearance in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. The Illini would return to the Sweet Sixteen a year later in 1998 after a second place conference finish. Illinois achieved back-to-back 20-win seasons for only the second time in school history those two seasons. The team's 12-4 Big Ten record in both '97 and '98 are the best conference marks in the program's history.The 10th-winningest women's basketball coach in NCAA history with 671 career wins, Grentz led the Illini to a program-best 24-8 mark in 1996-97, and has an overall mark of 210-156 and a Big Ten record of 101-91 in her 12 seasons in Champaign, including a 19-12 mark in 2006-07 and a fourth place Big Ten finish. Her success at Illinois earned her back-to-back Big Ten Coach of the Year and WBCA District Coach of the Year honors in 1997 and '98. Grentz also guided former Illini Ashley Berggren to All-America honors in 1998 and Big Ten Player of the Year honors in 1997, both firsts for an Illinois women's basketball player. The team's No. 5 ranking in the AP and USA Today polls in December, 1997, marked the highest ranking ever for an Illinois team.Three Illini have been selected in the WNBA draft during Grentz's tenure. Tauja Catchings, one of Grentz's first recruits at Illinois, was drafted by the WNBA in 2000. She has since played professionally in Sweden and is still pursuing a pro career. In the spring of 2004, Cindy Dallas was taken in the second round of the WNBA draft by the San Antonio Silver Stars, however injuries have derailed her career.Most recently, star forward Angelina Williams was chosen in the second round of the 2005 draft by the Phoenix Mercury. As the 18th overall selection and the fifth pick of the second round, Williams was the highest-ever UI draft pick. When she took the court in the Mercury's season opener that season, she became the first Illinois alum to play in a WNBA game. After being traded to the Detroit Shock just before the 2006 season, Williams helped the Shock win the WNBA title. Grentz retired following the 2006-07 season after 12 season with the Illini. She compiled a record of 210-156 at Illinois, including one Big Ten Championship (1997), two Sweet Sixteens and five NCAA Tournament appearances.Theresa Grentz, the Teacher
Theresa Grentz never intended to get into coaching. She went to school to become a teacher. In fact, Grentz taught sixth grade following graduation in 1974 and filled in as the interim head coach at St. Joseph's College. Even today, aside from winning the big games, Grentz relishes her role as a teacher of the game of basketball. This past year's Illini squad was young with eight freshmen and sophomores making big contributions, but Grentz relished the chance to motivate and mold the young players into winners as she has done so often in the past.That winning attitude happened early in Grentz's tenure at Illinois. The year before Grentz took over the program, the Illini went 10-17, 3-13 in the Big Ten. Grentz didn't hesitate to raise the expectations, telling the members of that group they were going to be champions.
"Coach Grentz made us believe we could do things we didn't believe we could," said All-American Ashley Berggren.
The following year Illinois won its first-ever Big Ten Championship and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16.
Coach Grentz has a reputation for getting the most from her players. Through the years she has coached seven All-Americans, including Sue Wicks, who earned back-to-back National Player of the Year awards in 1987 and '88. Wicks made a huge mark as a top player for the New York Liberty of the WNBA for six seasons. She helped the Liberty advance to the Finals three times and won the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award in 2000.Grentz looks for players who work well in the team concept, are relentless and aren't afraid of hard work. Once players buy into her system, she has proven that her teams can win. Over the years, she has defeated most of the top teams and coaches in the country and relishes the chance to go against the best. Dubbed one of the top motivators in the game, Coach Grentz has a respect few can match from players even after graduation.That respect is not limited to her players, however. In March of 2007 Grentz was awarded the Carol Eckman Award by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The Eckman Award is presented annually to an active WBCA coach who exemplifies Eckman's spirit, integrity and character through sportsmanship, committment to the student-athlete, honesty, ethical behavior, courage and dedication to purpose.
A Community Supporter Grentz has realized that a coach couldn't build a winning program without the support of the community. She has made over 1,000 public appearances in her 12 years at Illinois. From the beginning, she set out to spread the gospel of Illinois basketball, speaking to Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, whoever would listen. The responses of those groups made Theresa Grentz one of the most popular people in Champaign County.Grentz is a regular on local radio stations, and for the 11th year in a row hosted her own television show - The Theresa Grentz Show. She can often be spotted at many of the other sporting activities at the University of Illinois. Grade school teams and organizations visit the Ubben Basketball facility to view practices and have posters and paraphernalia signed. Five years ago Illinois started a tradition of seating kids eighth grade and younger under the Illinois basket. Before every home game, Grentz gives high-fives and talks with the kids in the "Grentz Gang" section.Throughout the state of Illinois and across the country, Grentz is actively involved in community activities, charity functions and youth clinics. She has teamed with the men's program to form one of the most successful Coaches vs. Cancer initiatives in the nation.
A Spokeswoman for Women's basketball Vowing to "unite women's basketball into one voice," Theresa Grentz accepted her nomination as the president of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in September of 1999. Grentz presided over the largest convention in the organization's history and appointed coaches from every conference of each division to make sure all college coaches in America were members of the organization.Grentz's two-year presence as the WBCA president was noted by her willingness to conduct business on the behalf of the WBCA and making her presence known. She traveled, participated in clinics, wrote articles, and represented the WBCA and women's basketball as a spokesperson for the profession of coaching women's basketball. Grentz strongly believes that the future of the WBCA and women's basketball as a sport, lies in the laps of the younger coaches who are getting involved.The Olympics & International Success On Sept. 10, 1990, Grentz received the coaching profession's ultimate honor when she was named head coach of the 1992 U.S. Olympic team. The U.S. team won its first three games by an average of 45.6 points at the Barcelona games. After a heartbreaking 79-73 loss to the Unified Team, the U.S. squad came back to defeat Cuba, 88-74, and earned a bronze medal.
Prior to serving as Olympic coach, Grentz had already accumulated a wealth of international experience. In 1981, she directed the U.S. Dial Junior National Team in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and the U.S. Maccabiah Team in Israel, where the team won a silver medal. In 1985, she won the gold medal with the U.S.A. Select Team at the Jones Cup Tournament in Taiwan. Grentz coached the U.S. World University Games team in Toronto in 1989 before heading the 1990 U.S. World Championships team in Malaysia and the U.S. Goodwill Games team in Seattle. Both of her 1990 national teams won gold medals in their respective tournaments.A Coaching Pioneer Grentz's storied coaching career began as soon as she graduated from college in 1974. She was hired as the part-time head coach at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia later that year. After guiding the Hawks to two winning seasons, including an 18-3 mark in 1975-76, Grentz was hired at Rutgers, becoming the first full-time women's basketball head coach in the nation. Inspired by her former coach, Cathy Rush, Grentz turned the Rutgers program into a national power.During 19 seasons at Rutgers (1976-95), Grentz's teams compiled an outstanding record of 434-150 (.743), including nine consecutive NCAA tournament appearances from 1986-94. Fourteen of Grentz's 19 Lady Knight teams won at least 20 games.
Her 1981-82 team finished with a 25-7 record and won the AIAW National Championship. In 1994, Grentz's Lady Knights became the first unranked team to defeat a No. 1 ranked team in the history of the AP women's basketball poll when they stunned Tennessee, 87-77.
During her unparalleled stint at Rutgers, Grentz won six Atlantic 10 regular-season titles and four Atlantic 10 tournament titles. She coached three Kodak/WBCA All-Americans, Kris Kirchner (1981), June Olkowski (1982) and Sue Wicks (1986-87-88). Wicks went on to earn National Player of the Year honors in 1987-88.As a result of her success Grentz has won a multitude of awards. A 1992 inductee into the NIKE Hall of Fame, Grentz guided the Lady Knights to a 30-3 record in 1986-87 to earn the Converse National Coach of the Year award. She also has been named the March of Dimes Coach of the Year (1990-91), the Metropolitan Women's Basketball Association Coach of the Year (1992-93) and the Newark Star Ledger Coach of the Year (1985-86). In addition, Grentz has twice been named the Kodak District II Coach of the Year and was honored four times as the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year.The All-American Theresa Grentz was a pioneer of sorts in women's basketball. Playing for Hall of Fame Coach Cathy Rush, Grentz was the center of attention for the Macs of Immaculata College in the early 1970s.
The same year that Richard Nixon signed Title IX guaranteeing equal opportunity for women, Grentz was leading the tiny private Catholic institution to the first of its three AIAW National Championships. Grentz was an icon in women's college basketball. At 5-11, she was a dominant force in the middle on those Immaculata teams.During her four years at the Pennsylvanian college, the Mighty Macs won a remarkable three AIAW National Championships, from 1972-74. Grentz was a mainstay for the dominant Immaculata teams, which amassed 74 victories, many over some of the largest universities in the nation. Grentz scored more than 1,000 career points for the Mighty Macs and was named a first team All-American for three consecutive years. She was named the 1974 AMF Collegiate Player of the Year and had her No. 12 jersey retired by Immaculata.Grentz played before the first ever television audience of women's basketball, when Immaculata won its third title on March 23, 1974.
Philadelphia Legend A native of Glenolden, Pa., Theresa Grentz (then Shank) first starred on the court while playing at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, Pa. She scored more than 1,200 points while in high school and led her team to three consecutive Philadelphia Catholic and City League titles. For her efforts, Grentz was inducted into the Cardinal O'Hara High School Hall of Fame in May 1996.
In 1999, The Delaware County Times named her the Female Athlete of the Millennium in Delaware County.
The THERESA GRENTZ TIME LINE
• March 19, 1972...Theresa Grentz helps Immaculata to victory over West Chester State, 52-48 in the first ever AIAW national title game ever held for women's basketball. The game is played in Normal, Ill.
• March 24, 1973...Immaculata defeats Queens College, 59-52 to capture second AIAW national title.
• March 23, 1974...Immaculata wins third straight national title.
• January 17, 1975...In first game as head coach for Theresa Grentz, St. Joseph's defeats Delaware, 64-60.
• August, 1976 ....Named Head Coach at Rutgers University as the first full-time women's basketball coach.
• March 21, 1980... Grentz leads Rutgers to the school's first Elite Eight in the AIAW national tournament.
• March 28, 1982...Rutgers defeats Texas, 83-77, for the AIAW National Title. Patty Coyle scores 30 points for the Macs.
• March, 1986...Rutgers advances to its first NCAA Tournament and advances to the East Regional Final
• April, 1988...Three-time All-American Sue Wicks wins multiple Player of the Year honors, including the Naismith.
• September 10, 1990...Theresa Grentz named Head Coach of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team
• August 8, 1992...U.S. Team wins Bronze Medal Game with Cuba, 88-74.
• January 17, 1994...Becoming the only unranked team to upset the country's number one team, Rutgers defeats top-ranked Tennessee, 87-77.
• May 16, 1995...Theresa Grentz named sixth head women's basketball coach of the University of Illinois.
• February 21, 1997...Illinois clinches its first ever Big Ten title.
• March 22, 1997... Behind the three-point shooting of Krista Reinking, Illini nearly upset No. 1 Connecticut in the NCAA Regional Semifinal. That marked the first ever Sweet 16 appearance for the Illini.
• March 16, 1998...Illinois defeats UC-Santa Barbara to earn its second straight NCAA Sweet 16 Bid.
• December 18, 1999...With a 61-59 Illini win over Kansas, Grentz becomes the all-time winningest coach at Illinois.
• June 9, 2001...Coach Grentz receives the highest honor with her induction in the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
• December 29, 2002...Coach Grentz records her 600th career victory -- an 80-68 victory over Auburn.
• February 26, 2006...Grentz becomes the 10th coach in NCAA history to reach the 650 win milestone after a 67-57 win at Michigan.
• March 7, 2007...Grentz win the WBCA's Carol Eckman Award, which exemplifies spirit, integrity and character through sportsmanship, honesty, ethical behavior, courage and commitment to the student-athlete.