Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame member, Gary Blair, led Texas A&M to the 2011 NCAA Championship and has transformed the women’s basketball program into a national power since his appointment as head coach in 2003.
Blair, a two-time national finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award, has guided Texas A&M to eight straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and to four conference championships, including the 2013 SEC Tournament Championship.
Blair led the Aggies to their first national title in their first-ever trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four and closed out the 2010-11 season with a 33-5 record, the most victories in program history. The Aggies were voted as the No. 1 team in the coaches’ poll following the season, the first time Texas A&M stood atop either poll in women’s basketball.
Blair has coached two USBWA All-Americans at Texas A&M; Danielle Adams, who was the program’s first true All-American in 2010-11, and Kelsey Bone, who earned All-America recognition in 2012-13.
Adams was a first-team honoree by the Associated Press, State Farm and the USBWA in addition to being selected as a finalist for prestigious awards such as the Naismith Trophy, the John R. Wooden Award and the Wade Trophy. After leaving Aggieland, Adams became a WNBA All-Star for the San Antonio Silver Stars.
Bone was selected to the USBWA first-team and was a third-team selection by the Associated Press, after completing a 2012-13 season that saw her earn MVP of the SEC Tournament. She was the fifth overall pick by the New York Liberty in the historically-strong 2013 WNBA Draft, and earned WNBA All-Rookie honors in her first year in the league.
With Blair at the helm, Texas A&M has won either a conference championship or advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen every year since 2007. The Aggies have made four appearances in the Sweet Sixteen in the past six years, and reached the Elite Eight in 2008 and 2011.
The women’s basketball program won its first SEC Championship in 2013, knocking off three ranked teams to capture the league crown in a 75-67 victory over No. 7 Kentucky. The Aggies captured the regular season Big 12 Conference Championship in 2007 and continued with postseason championship titles in 2008 and 2010 before departing to the SEC.
Most notably, Blair is one of only three all-time NCAA Division I women’s basketball coaches to lead two different teams to the NCAA Women’s Final Four (Texas A&M and Arkansas), and is one of eight coaches to lead three different teams to the NCAA Tournament (Texas A&M, Arkansas, Stephen F. Austin). He currently ranks 11th in career victories and in the top 25 by winning percentage among active Division I coaches with an impressive 645-263 overall record (.710).
Blair became the all-time winningest women’s basketball coach in Texas A&M history with an 84-53 victory over Portland State in the NCAA First Round on March 20, 2010, to surpass 154 career victories compiled by former head coach Lynn Hickey from 1984-1994. The 2007 Big 12 Coach of the Year claimed his 600th career coaching victory against Mississippi State on Nov. 20, 2011, to become the 22nd all-time NCAA Division I coach to reach the milestone. He also holds the distinction of being one of only six coaches in NCAA history to take three schools to the NCAA Tournament.
Over the course of his 28-year collegiate coaching career, which includes stops at Stephen F. Austin from 1985-93 and Arkansas from 1993-03, Blair has led his teams to 27 winning seasons, 22 20-win seasons, 19 NCAA Tournament appearances and 30 NCAA postseason victories. Blair has won a championship at every level of his coaching career including three state championships at Dallas South Oak Cliff High School, two national championships as an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech, a WNIT Championship at Arkansas and a national championship at Texas A&M.
Blair previously led the Lady Razorbacks to the 1998 NCAA Final Four and the Lady Jacks to four NCAA Sweet 16 appearances. He has followed that path of success by elevating Texas A&M into one of the nation’s elite programs where he has put together a 226-95 record (.704) after nine seasons in Aggieland, including eight consecutive 20-win campaigns since 2005. In the last eight years, A&M has registered an unprecedented 110-15 (.880) overall success record at Reed Arena.
Under Blair’s tutelage, many players have seen success on the hard court after their time at Texas A&M. Nine players over the last six years alone have been drafted into the WNBA, including Kelsey Bone, who was the program’s highest-ever pick at fifth overall in the 2013 draft. In 2012, Tyra White and Sydney Carter were both selected in the WNBA Draft, marking the third time that Texas A&M had two players selected in a WNBA Draft. Next to Sydney Colson (2011) and Danielle Gant (2009), White became the third A&M player to be taken with the 16th overall pick.
One of the most active and involved coaches in the Bryan-College Station community, Blair is a frequent and charismatic speaker at the local Rotary Club as well as other civic and student groups throughout the year. He also hosts the annual Gary Blair Celebrity Golf Classic that benefits Special Olympics Texas. A marketing and public relations guru, Blair has increased awareness about his program and boosted both attendance and season tickets sales at Reed Arena by over 300 percent due to his one-on-one approach.
With his 2013 induction into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Blair is now a member of five Hall of Fame classes including induction into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2011, the Southland Conference Hall of Honor in 2009, the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjack Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. He was also honored with the 2011 New York Athletic Club’s Winged Foot Award, which is presented annually to the winning coaches of the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I Basketball Championships.
A 1963 graduate of Dallas’ Bryan Adams High School, Blair was an all-city baseball player. After a tour in the U.S. Marine Corps, he earned his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education with a minor in journalism from Texas Tech in 1972. He completed his master’s degree in education in 1974 and also played a season of baseball for the Red Raiders.
Blair’s wife, Dr. Nan Smith-Blair, is the director of nursing at the University of Arkansas. The couple have two children, Paige and Matt, and two grandchildren, Logan and Lola. Paige owns a children’s boutique in Fayetteville, Ark., and is married to Beau Thompson, head boys’ basketball coach at Farmington High School in Farmington, Ark. Matt is a volunteer coach for the UALR women’s soccer program and is currently working towards his master’s degree at UALR.
THE BLAIR FILE
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