Former Mt. Juliet women's hoops star looks forward to latest coaching challenge

Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:15pm

Susie Gardner probably has a better idea of her team's future than she does its present state.

The former Mt. Juliet star was named head women's basketball coach at Mercer last month. The timing forced her to look forward.

“In all honesty I got the job and pretty much hit the recruiting trail,” Gardner said. “So I haven’t even had any time to watch tape. I know we graduated our two leading scorers. We’ll be quite young but I think change is good sometimes for new energy.”

A job as head coach is nothing new for Gardner, who enters her 25th year in coaching. She has been on a Division I bench for 18 seasons, 12 as a head coach.

The last time she was in charge was when she led the University of Arkansas from 2003-07. The Razorbacks were 64-54 under Gardner but never made the NCAA Tournament. They did earn a spot in the 2005 women's NIT.

Before that, she directed Austin Peay, where she relied heavily on regional talent. Under her, the Lady Governors won three straight Ohio Valley Conference tournaments (2001-03), and she was named OVC Coach of the Year in 2003.

Mercer hired her away from the University of Florida, where she was an assistant since being replaced at Arkansas.

The move allowed her to reconnect with some her earliest coaching roots and her days as a college player. She was part of two women's final four teams at the University of Georgia (1983 and 1985) as a player and then spent two more years there as a graduate assistant.

“That’s the great thing about the Atlantic Sun (Conference) -- I just left Florida, I have contacts in Tennessee and I have contacts in Georgia,” she said. “When I was at Austin Peay, the state of Tennessee had great high school girls’ basketball and we were successful recruiting mostly Tennessee kids.

"You want to be in a conference where you feel like you can recruit in state, and the state of Georgia is wealthy with players.”

Eventually, she'll even get to see exactly how rich is the talent on her own team.

“I’m anxious for the first day of class so I can actually get them on the court,” she said.

1 Comment on this post:

By: richgoose on 7/30/10 at 10:22

Joe Black Gardner's daughter has ddddone real well.