At first those within earshot thought she was joking.
Among her many likeable qualities, Leta Andrews has a keen sense of humor.
“I’m retiring,” Andrews said following the Granbury Lady Pirates’ 40-39 area round loss in the Class 4A basketball playoffs Saturday afternoon.
Then came a silence, along with a wait for the punch line.
This, however, was no joke.
After 51 seasons and 1,416 wins – more than any basketball coach who has ever picked up a whistle – Andrews is indeed calling it a career.
“It’s just time,” she said through a thin smile and moist eyes.
“It’s been a wonderful ride. I can’t think of anything a person loves and has a passion for more than I have for basketball, but I’m 76 years old and it’s time for me to do other things with the rest of my life.”
That will include visiting the many grandchildren she and David, her husband of nearly six decades, have spread across the country.
“We’re going to do some traveling and just enjoy our family,” Andrews said, taking a moment to hug her husband and best friend in the world.
Andrews coached at five different schools, starting with a 14-3 record at Tolar in 1962-63. That was followed by two years at Gustine (34-16), 11 years at Comanche (292-56), four years at Granbury (108-28), 12 years at Corpus Christi Calallen (401-44), and the last 22 back at Granbury (567-205).
Nearly half of her victories came at her beloved Granbury High (675).
Her teams reached 14 state tournaments, with perhaps the most special being the lone time she coached the Lady Pirates to Austin with a state runner-up finish in 1978.
Her lone state championship was won in 1990.
She’s in numerous halls of fame, including the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, and the granddaddy of them all, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
She was also a success off the basketball court. In 1993 she was named the Walt Disney Teacher of the Year on the national level.
But her basketball success began long before she ever coached her first game. As a player she led the Lady Pirates to back-to-back state runner-up finishes in 1954-55.
That was a time when girls basketball had six players on the court for each team. They played a 3-on-3 half-court style, with guards not crossing midcourt and leaving all the scoring up to the forwards.
Andrews was the first player to be named all-state as a guard and then as a forward the next season.
“This all started many years ago when Clyde and Alba Rains (her parents) talked me into playing basketball,” said Andrews. “I’m sure they’re up there (she points to Heaven) smiling now.
“I believe I made them proud.”
As Andrews announced the news to her team on the bus ride back to Granbury from Jacksboro, Morgan Northcutt realized how special it is being the last senior Andrews coached.
“It’s inspiring to know she kept that passion for 51 years,” said Northcutt. “I remember being about 6 and saying I wanted to play for coach Andrews. People would say that she’d be retired by the time I got to high school, but every year she kept talking about next year.
“I’m glad she stuck around long enough to wait for me.”
Emily Britt played for Andrews at the turn of the century and was one of her assistant coaches this season. She said Andrews taught her a lot about basketball and life.
“She’s hilarious. She loves to laugh, but she also loves hard work – not just in basketball, but in life,” said Britt, her mind clearly sorting through years of memories.
“She teaches respect. It’s always been important to her that you show respect to people who deserve it.”
And this season she and Andrews took their relationship to a whole new level.
“We weren’t just player and coach any more, we were colleagues,” said Britt. “And that was really special.“It’s definitely going to be a different feeling next season not having coach Andrews on the end of that bench.”
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