Turnaround coach

March 29, 2006

Once asked for the key to success as a college basketball coach, John Wooden, the legendary former UCLA coach, reportedly replied with one word: recruiting. That certainly seems to be true for Brenda Frese, who, in her four years as the University of Maryland women's basketball coach, has relentlessly nabbed top recruits.

The result has been a remarkable turnaround for UM's once-moribund women's program: three straight trips to the NCAA tournament, a No. 3 national ranking and, with a gutsy overtime victory over Utah (and the lingering effects of a team-wide scourge of stomach flu) Monday night, the team's first Final Four slot in 17 years.

The Lady Terps' rise contrasts sharply with the falling fortunes of the UM men's team, who were 2002 national champions but who just capped another disappointing season with an embarrassing loss in the also-ran National Invitational Tournament.

Even now, the success of the UM women may be overshadowed in this region by the dream-come-true exploits of the George Mason University basketball team in the men's tourney.

But this is no Cinderella story. Taking nothing at all away from the talented Terrapin women, who stand a decent chance of being national champs this time next week, this is Coach Frese's story. In her two prior head coaching posts, at Ball State and the University of Minnesota, she carried out the same sort of sudden turnarounds, once earning AP National Coach of the Year honors. This year, she's a finalist for another national coaching honor, the Naismith Award. Like her young team, she's earned the accolades.

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