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.
Developing a winner at Illinois
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
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 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
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
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
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 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.
In 1999, The Delaware County Times named her the Female Athlete of the Millennium in Delaware County.
The THERESA GRENTZ TIME LINE
The Grentz Record
THERESA GRENTZ HONORS
Grentz's International Coaching Experience
Grentz's International Playing Experience
Grentz's Collegiate Playing Experience
GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-Americans Coached
Kodak/WBCA All-Americans Coached
National Players of the Year Coached
Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year Awards
Big Ten Coach of the Year Awards
Coach of the Year Awards
Honors, Awards, Responsibilities