Georgia players and staff pose with head women’s basketball coach Andy Landers late Tuesday night to celebrate his 800th career victory after the No. 10-ranked Lady Bulldogs routed Savannah State, 94-57, in Athens to secure the milestone for the longtime coach.
ATHENS — The No. 799 went up on a whiteboard in Georgia’s locker room earlier this week.
The Lady Bulldogs were sending a message to coach Andy Landers that they knew about his impending milestone.
And everyone made sure he wasn’t disappointed.
Landers became the seventh Division I women’s coach to reach 800 career victories when No. 8 Georgia beat Savannah State, 94-57, late Tuesday night.
“They put it up after the last game. They thought that was cute,” Landers said. “I didn’t even know they knew about it. I think they were kind of giddy. If this kind of thing is something that kids find to be fun, and they take a lot of pride in it, it’s a good thing.”
Landers, who is 800-268 in his 34th season at Georgia, was presented with a framed red team jersey with the No. 800 on it in a postgame ceremony.
He became the school’s first full-time women’s basketball coach when he was hired in 1979 and has led the Lady Bulldogs to seven SEC regular-season titles, four SEC Tournament Championships and five Final Four appearances.
“(This is) not something that’s been on my radar. It is what it is. It happened,” Landers said. “At some point, maybe later. Ten years from now. Fifteen years from now. Twenty years from now, if I live that long, I’ll look back and say, ‘Wow.’ But today, we’re just out there doing what we do.”
Landers, now in his 34th season as the Lady Bulldogs’ head coach, joined a list including women’s head coaches Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma and men’s coaches such as Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith. Landers, who is still the only full-time women’s basketball coach the University of Georgia has ever had, focused on the sacrifices his family has made through the years for him to reach this milestone.
“I’ve been very blessed the last 34 years, and I want to thank my wife, Pam; my son, Drew; and my daughter, Andrea, for sacrificing and allowing me to do something that I’ve really enjoyed,” Landers said. “Tomorrow we take off for New Mexico and it will be the 33rd out of 34 years that I’ll be away from the family on Thanksgiving. They’ve just been terrific, especially Pam and her support.”
Landers, whose career win mark now stands at 882 after winning 82 games at Roane State prior to coming to Georgia, has been keen to deflect attention away from the achievement in the days leading up to the game. Even after his players wrote 799 on a white board in the team’s locker room after defeating Belmont this past Sunday, Landers remained focused on the task in hand.
Once they accomplished that task, Landers gave in to the fan fare some.
“I want to thank this group behind me who I hope you’re enjoying because, as coaches, we’re really enjoying working with them. This isn’t something that I’ve done; it’s something that we’ve all done. I’ve been blessed with terrific assistant coaches through the years,” Landers said, pointing to his players and staff behind him. “It is not about me. It’s something we can share with everyone who’s touched our program the past 34 years. We’re in a place where the administration thinks women’s basketball is very important, and we’re very thankful for that.”
Never one for clichés, Landers said that, regardless of anything, winning is important. He still has been proud of the way his program has gone about each of the 800 wins.
“Someone once said that it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. It matters whether you win or lose, and it matters in life whether we win. We’ve been fortunate to do that, but it also matters how you play the game,” he said. “I think what I appreciate and what I’m proudest of is not the wins, but how we’ve played the game. We have done it the right way and done it with classy kids. Our kids have graduated, and it’s just been a wonderful experience that I hope you appreciate that because I can’t tell you how much we’ve appreciated you through the years. Thank you very much.”
An indication of the immense achievement Landers cemented Tuesday night is that combined the other 13 SEC coaches own 954 wins at their respective institutions. Next on the list of milestones for Landers to achieve is career victory 900, a mark he is now only 18 wins shy of reaching.
Jasmine James scored 18 points and freshman Tiaria Griffin added a career-high 15 for the Lady Bulldogs (5-0), who played their fourth games in seven days.
Georgia led by as many as 38 points, forced 25 turnovers and outrebounded the Lady Tigers 44-26.
“Rebounding has been an Achilles heel for us this year, and they had great size inside and they pounded on the boards,” Savannah State coach Cedric Baker said. “I think if we had rebounded better and controlled tempo and not given up so many second-chance shots and turnovers in the backcourt, it probably would have been a closer game and margin.”
The Lady Bulldogs used a 16-2 run to take a 37-13 lead with 7:38 left in the first half. Griffin and fellow freshmen Marjorie Butler each scored six points to key the run.
Jasmine Hassell added 14 points for the Lady Bulldogs, who shot 50.7 percent from the field (38 of 75).
Hassell, a senior, surpassed the 1,000 career points and now has 1,004.
“To be honest, I didn’t know about it,” Hassell said. “When we were in the huddle, people were patting me on the back. I was like, ‘Why do they keep patting me on my back?’ And somebody said it. It’s a blessing and honor.”
There seemed to be a lot of those Tuesday night in Athens.