Gail Goestenkors accepted the University of Texas' offer to become its next women's basketball head coach Tuesday, leaving behind the Duke program she built into a national powerhouse during her 15 years in Durham.
After informing Duke administrators Tuesday morning of her decision, Goestenkors spoke with the current Blue Devils squad in a meeting in the afternoon.
Texas will introduce Goestenkors, the reigning Associated Press Coach of the Year, at a news conference Thursday at noon EDT.
"During the last week and throughout her entire time at Duke, we addressed everything that Gail requested in order to remain our coach for the duration of her career," Director of Athletics Joe Alleva said in a statement. "In the end, it came down to her seeking a new challenge at this stage in her career and her life."
Texas had reportedly offered Goestenkors a contract that would pay her $800,000 per year, which is significantly more than her salary was at Duke.
After she returned from her interview in Austin last week, however, Duke matched the offer and addressed other concerns Goestenkors had about program support, a senior athletics official with knowledge of the negotiations said.
A source familiar with Goestenkors' thinking said the recently divorced coach heavily weighed her personal life in the decision.
In the end, Goestenkors, 44, chose to chase her elusive first national championship in Austin, where there is an established fan base for women's basketball, a strong recruiting pipeline and a women's athletics director-Chris Plonsky-with whom Goestenkors has worked previously.
"I talked with Gail repeatedly in the last few days and I know this was an extremely difficult decision for her, but ultimately the lure of a new challenge outweighed her many ties at Duke," President Richard Brodhead said in a statement. "She is a great coach and a fine person, and we are grateful for everything she's accomplished at Duke."
Although rumors had connected Goestenkors with the Texas job ever since long-time Longhorns coach Jody Conradt retired after her team's season ended in early March, the process did not get underway until the No. 1 Blue Devils were upset in the Sweet 16 March 24.
Two days later, Alleva granted Texas permission to speak with Goestenkors, and the former Duke coach spent parts of three days in Austin that week. She returned to North Carolina last Thursday but did not attend a rally held outside Cameron Indoor Stadium by more than 200 Duke supporters imploring her to remain at Duke.
After meeting with Alleva Friday morning, Goestenkors spent the weekend in Cleveland-the site of this year's Final Four-where she accepted the AP and Women's Basketball Coaches Association awards for coach of the year. Throughout her travels, Goestenkors remained noncommittal on her future, saying she needed time to ponder the life-changing choice.
The decision did not come as a complete surprise to those close to the program.
"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 in a statement. "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. We love Coach G and will keep in touch with her.
"We have a great team returning next year along with excellent recruits coming in, so we will still remain a very talented team for the years to come."
Program boosters had come together in recent days in support of Goestenkors, including placing ads in The Chronicle and The Cleveland Plain-Dealer, but the final outcome was not one that could be swayed by financial incentives or ties to the area.
"Duke stood up for Gail in both its resources and salary support," said Dr. Henry Friedman, a supporter of the women's program and the deputy director of The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University Medical Center. "I am disappointed for Duke, because she is clearly one of the most talented coaches in the business. I am disappointed personally, because she's a very close friend of mine."
Goestenkors arrived at Duke in 1992, taking over a program that had reached just one NCAA Tournament in its 17 previous years of existence. Since then, Duke has become one of the nation's elite programs, making it to the Final Four in four out of the past eight seasons.
She will likely be remembered for bringing the program to new heights, but also for her failure to win an NCAA title in her two trips to the national championship game.
"We respect her decision and wish her the best of luck in her new role," Alleva said. "We thank her for all of her years of service and the job she did while building our program."
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