Greg McGarity was a fledgling assistant sports information director in the fall of 1979 when he made a call to the man who would become as much of a fixture at Georgia as Sanford Stadium’s hedges.
McGarity was at Stegeman Coliseum when Andy Landers picked up win No. 1. Tonight he hopes to be among the first to congratulate Andy Landers for win No. 800 at Georgia if the Lady Bulldogs defeat
“Gosh, I still remember that day,” McGarity said. “Coach (Vince) Dooley asked me to call this guy out of Roane State Community College in Tennessee to gather information to do the release about who he’d hired to be the women’s basketball coach. Needless to say, that call was quite interesting. to get to know him. Needless to say, that conversation was unusual. After talking to Andy for what must have seemed at least an hour, I really didn’t know what to expect. But I knew that other person on the line was dreaming big dreams and had a tremendous vision for Georgia women’s basketball at a time when basketball at Georgia was virtually non-existent.”
Landers and No. 8 Georgia (4-0) will go for win No. 800 of his tenure at 7 p.m. today in Stegeman Coliseum against Savannah State (1-1). Landers is in his 34th season at Georgia and stands on the brink of becoming just the eighth basketball coach, men’s or women’s, to reach the 800-win plateau at an NCAA Division I school. Landers’ first win was 88-69 against Piedmont in the 1979-80 season opener.
“Being one place for 34 years doesn’t mean anything, but being at Georgia for 34 years means a lot,” Landers, 60, said. “I’ve lived her more than I have anywhere in my life. So it’s home. It’s really, really good people, so I feel blessed to have had a job at at an institution like Georgia in a conference like the (Southeastern Conference) and to have had the support of all the people who have supported us. That’s dream stuff. Then you sprinkle in on top of that some people like (Teresa) Edwards and (Kelly and Coco) Miller and (Tweety) Nolan and (Jasmine) Hassell — that’s a good life.”
Landers is one win away from joining an exclusive group of college basketball coaches who have won 800 games at the same major college — Pat Summitt (1,098 at Tennessee), Jim Boeheim (892 at Syracuse), Dean Smith (879 at North Carolina), Adolph Rupp (876 at Kentucky), Mike Krzyzewski (857 at Duke), Jim Phelan (830 at Mount. St. Mary’s) and Geno Auriemma (806 at Connecticut). Landers has also led Georgia to 29 NCAA Tournament bids, 19 trips to the Sweet 16 and made the Final Four five times, including runner-up finishes in 1983 and 1985.
“Andy is just so authentic,” McGarity said. “What you see is what you get. He is honest. He is straight-forward. He tells you what you need to hear — it may not be what you want to hear — and he does so in a very positive manner. I know he is passionate about getting the maximum out of his staff and his student-athletes. He cares enough to be able to analyze and believe that he can get more out of someone than they think they might have. That, to me, is a true sign of coaching excellence.”
Team goals have always meant more to Landers than his personal milestones. He has never mentioned the mark to the team and many of the players did not know about it until win No. 799 on Sunday against Belmont.
“It’s a great honor and I’m glad to be part of a team that should get him No. 800,” senior forward Jasmine Hassell said. “But it’s the end result that we’re looking for — the (Southeastern Conference) championship, the NCAA Tournament and everything that comes with it. But 800 wins speaks for itself. It speaks for our coach and it speaks for what program we’re in. I’m blessed to even have this jersey on and the opportunity to even be on this campus.”
Georgia has started the season by scheduling games at a break-neck pace. This will be Georgia’s fifth game since Nov. 11 and fourth in eight days. A win today would clear the decks of pomp and circumstance for the serious business of competing for an SEC and NCAA title.
“No. 800 is huge for the program,” senior guard Jasmine James said after Sunday’s win against Belmont. “It would be something that’s great to be a part of. It’s definitely something we’re looking forward to. But we’re going to practice and prepare for Savannah State just like we would anyone else so we can try as hard as we can to get that win for Coach. It’s kind of fun to do stuff like that. I wouldn’t say it’s one of our main focuses because it’s not something that Coach talks about. Honestly, if we didn’t hear it from the media, we really wouldn’t know. It’s definitely a fun thing to be a part of and a fun thing to do. We know all about it now.”
Savannah State at Georgia
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: Stegeman Coliseum.
Radio: WRFC 960-AM.
Records: Georgia is 4-0, Savannah State is 1-1.
Rankings: Georgia is No. 8, Savannah State is unranked.
Probable starting lineups: Savannah State: G Ezinne Kalu (5-8, Jr., 17.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg); G Jasmine Norman (5-110, So., 7.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg); Andrietta Thomas (5-9, Jr., 12.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Erin Hogue (5-11, Sr., 9.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg); F Charmaine Greene (6-1, Jr., Savannah, 1.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg).
Georgia: G Jasmine James (5-9, Sr., 7.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg); G Khaalidah Miller (5-9, Jr., 5.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G Shacobia Barbee (5-10, Fr., 3.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg); F Anne Marie Armstrong (6-3, Sr., 7.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg); Jasmine Hassell (6-2, Sr., 12.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg).
Series record: Georgia leads 5-0.
Last meeting: Georgia won 85-45 in 2009 in Savannah.
Season at a glance: Georgia has won four straight to start the season and beat Belmont 70-38 on Sunday. Savannah State lost at South Carolina 78-47 on Thursday.
Noteworthy: This is the fourth date of Georgia’s four-game, eight-day stretch to start the the season. … Andy Landers is one win short of No. 800 in his 34 seasons at Georgia. Only seven other men’s or women’s coaches have reached 800 wins at an NCAA Division I program. Landers’ 38-year career record is 881-269, including 82 wins at two-year Roane State. Landers’ overall win No. 800 also came against Savannah State in 2009. … Jasmine Hassell is 10 points short of No. 1,000 in her career. … Georgia has started two freshmen the last two games — guard Shacobia Barbee and forward Merritt Hempe. … Georgia reserve guard Danielle Bennett has missed the last three games because of an eye infection. … Savannah State was out-rebounded 50-26 against South Carolina last week. … Savanna State’s Ezinne Kalu hit 9 of 10 from the field and scored 25 points in 19 minutes against Columbia College in the season opener on Nov. 9.