Weatherspoon, La Tech return to NCAA tourney
Teresa Weatherspoon still has her game face - that look of intense concentration, the bit of belligerence, the slight swagger.
Now she's back where she honed the flash and brilliance that made her seem unstoppable and put Louisiana Tech on the top of the college pecking order. And if the court has lost some luster since back in the day, Weatherspoon is already applying the polish.
``There was a time every body wanted to be Louisiana Tech,'' Weatherspoon said. ``When we fell, it hurt us all so bad - the players, the coaches, the fans, everybody.''
By many standards the fall has not been a big one, after all the Lady Techsters have only missed three NCAAs. But when you have been to 25 straight and won three national titles, including two NCAA titles and the final AIAW, three years is a long time.
The Lady Techsters only lost 14 games in the four years Weatherspoon played for them (1984-88), when she started all but one game. They went to the Final Four twice and won the championship in 1988.
She played on gold and bronze medal-winning Olympic teams, then played overseas and in the WNBA. If it weren't for a bad left knee and bone spurs in her left ankle, Weatherspoon, 44, still might be suiting up.
Instead, she's doing what she sees as the next best thing, teaching young women and bringing back the glory days to her alma mater.
Weatherspoon became the Lady Techsters' coach last year when Chris Long was fired.
``She was great,'' said sports information director Malcolm Butler. ``She won her first eight games, and took us to the semifinals in the WAC tournament.''
It was good enough to secure a WNIT berth for the team.
``I'm so excited for her,'' said former Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore, who Weatherspoon calls her father, her mentor and her friend. ``She is bringing the excitement back to Lady Techster basketball and she is going to build something really special there.''
Barmore, now an assistant for another former Louisiana Tech player, Kim Mulkey, at Baylor, tries to watch Weatherspoon and her team as often as he can, he said.
``She still has all that passion she had as a player,'' he said. ``But she's matured. She knows how to get on one of the kids or an official when she needs to, then go on. She's already learned some of the big secretes of coaching.''
The Lady Techsters (23-8) face heavily favored Florida State (26-5) on the Seminoles' homecourt in Tallahassee. Florida State beat Louisiana Tech the last time the Techsters made the tournament.
Seminoles coach Sue Semrau called it an honor to play a team ``as storied as Louisiana Tech.'' Weatherspoon would rather she saw it as a horror.
``I want us to be able to play physical or play finesse,'' Weatherspoon said. ``I want my players to hit back when they get hit. But better yet, hit first. You can't be anything but tough out there.''
It shows in practice where she tells them to ``attack the body, play through the body, don't you back off.''
``Coach Spoon's tough, but she knows how to bring out your talent, how to make you better,'' said Shanavia Dowdell, one of two players Weatherspoon looses this year. ``She tells us every game is going to be tough, we just have to be tougher.''
Especially on the Seminoles' homecourt.