Texas A&M women's basketball coach Gary Blair to retire at end of season

Texas A&M women's basketball coach Gary Blair announced on Thursday that this season will be the last of his historic career.

Blair, 76, has won 838 games in his career at Stephen F. Austin, Arkansas and A&M, where he arrived in 2003. He ranks 12th in Division I history and fourth among active coaches. He has led the Aggies to five conference titles, including the 2021 SEC regular-season title and the 2011 national championship. He's nine wins from being the winningest basketball coach (men's or women's) in Texas A&M history. Shelby Metcalf, who coached the men's team for 27 seasons, is the school's winningest coach.

"I always evaluate myself on: Am I giving everything I have, is my health good and am I still able to make an impact on young lives?" Blair said in a statement on Thursday. "I am fortunate that my health is still great, and I believe that I can still make an impact on our student-athletes and that I can give all my effort every single day. However, I know that it is time for this to be my final season. Although I am excited to begin a new chapter in my life, I am even more excited to compete this year."

"It's really special for us to be playing in his last season," Aggies guard Destiny Pitts said. "Just because of the impact that he's had on the women's game. When he told us, we were a little surprised because we know that he could keep coaching if he wants to. But also, just excited for him. We all want to make this season special for us and for him."

Blair is a member of seven halls of fame, including the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. He began his career as an assistant at Louisiana Tech between 1980-85 as the Lady Techsters won two national titles, including the first NCAA women's basketball tournament in 1982 season. In 36 years as a head coach, he has had 35 winning seasons, 30 20-win seasons and 41 postseason victories, which ranks fifth among active coaches.

Texas A&M said nearly 60 of Blair's former assistants or players became head coaches, including six currently at the Division I level: LSU's Kim Mulkey, Texas' Vic Schaefer, Arkansas' Mike Neighbors, Auburn's Johnnie Harris, Georgia Tech's Nell Fortner and Lamar's A'Quonesia Franklin.

"Coach Blair is a legend in women's basketball and college sports," Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said. "His decades-long championship-caliber coaching acumen and recruiting ability has transcended many generations of women's basketball players and his impact will be felt long after he hangs up the whistle."

As for life after coaching, Blair said quality time with his family is at the top of his list.

"My wife and I want to do some traveling starting next summer...we've got a lot of places picked out," Blair said. "I've got nine grandkids that I want to go spend more time with. I just want to be the ordinary Joe about town. I just want to be that guy that hopefully did it the right way."

Texas A&M was picked to finish second in the SEC preseason coaches' poll, and is ranked No. 23 in the AP preseason poll. The Aggies open Blair's final season with an exhibition against Oklahoma Baptist at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 at Reed Arena in College Station.