NORFOLK, Va. — Wendy Larry, whose career at Old Dominion nearly spans the history of the women’s basketball program, is stepping down after 25 years as head coach.
Larry, 56, had one year remaining on her contract and was not offered an extension after the Lady Monarchs (20-11) failed to reach the NCAA tournament the past two seasons.
“I did not feel like an extension at this particular juncture was warranted given the recent history of our program,” athletic director Wood Selig told The Associated Press.
He said he and Larry agreed the change was “in the best interest of the program” and that a national search will begin immediately.
Larry will now work on athletic-related fundraising projects and alumni events with the university. Selig said he expects her ties with former players and in the community will help as the school tries to raise $8 million for a new basketball practice facility.
Larry was not available to comment, the school said.
“I was truly blessed to have coached hundreds of student-athletes who wore the Lady Monarch uniform with pride during my tenure at ODU,” she said in a statement released by the school. “I am forever grateful that the late President Marchello and Dr. Jim Jarrett took a chance on me and brought me home.”
Her history at ODU extends almost to the beginning of the women’s program.
Larry was one of the first women to accept a grant-in-aid as a basketball player at Old Dominion. She later served as a graduate and then assistant coach under Marianne Stanley from 1979-86. During that time, Old Dominion won the AIAW national championship (1980) and the NCAA title in 1985.
She replaced Stanley as head coach in 1987, compiling a 599-203 record. Her teams also set an NCAA record by winning the Colonial Athletic Association tournament 17 years in a row, from 1992-2008, before losing in the tournament to James Madison the past two seasons.
The Lady Monarchs reached the NCAA tournament 20 times under Larry, including a berth in the national championship game in 1997. Second-ranked Old Dominion lost 68-59 to Tennessee.
The Lady Vols also were regulars on the Lady Monarchs’ schedule in keeping with Larry’s philosophy that playing the best teams prepared her team for the rigors of the season.
Selig said he expects that will continue under the new coach.
“That’s a way to not only define your program, but to recruit at the highest level nationally and internationally,” he said. He expects the job to attract significant interest.
A fierce rebounder as a player, Larry was often very animated on the bench, and often with a dark blue towel draped over one shoulder. She kept the Lady Monarchs competitive despite their smaller conference standing with a number of recruits from overseas, most notably Ticha Penichiero from Portugal, the dazzling point guard who led that team to the 1997 final.
Prior to returning to Old Dominion, Larry coached nearby Virginia Wesleyan College from 1978-79 and at the University of Arizona from 1985-87. Her career record is 608-234.