With a salute at midcourt and a thank you for the support of Cavalier fans, Debbie Ryan ended her tenure March 27 as head coach of UVA’s women’s basketball program after 34 seasons and 739 wins.
Since taking the reins from Dan Bonner (Col ’75) before the 1977-78 season, Ryan led UVA to the NCAA Tournament 24 times, including three consecutive Final Four appearances from 1990-92. Moments before addressing the John Paul Jones Arena crowd for the final time as head coach, she had come within six points of securing a spot in the semifinals of this year’s Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
“This has been a great, great experience for me,” Ryan told the assembled players and fans. “This is part of the fabric of who I am.”
Ryan, who coached 1,063 games over her career, was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. In addition to her renown as a coach, Ryan provided inspiration through her battle against pancreatic cancer.
“Debbie is a unique treasure to our local community,” said Craig Littlepage, UVA athletics director. “Those of us who have worked directly with her have been tremendously enriched.”
See “Retrospect” for a look back at Coach Ryan’s Final Four run.
What they’re saying about Ryan:
“Coach Ryan, to me, is one of the greatest coaches I have ever played for. During my four years at Virginia, she not only taught me how to be a better basketball player, and how to work hard, but she also taught me a lot about how to be a good person and to have integrity in everything that you do.”
—Monica Wright (Col ‘10), former UVA guard now in the WNBA
“I consider it one of the greatest privileges in my entire career to have been able to play for Debbie Ryan at the University of Virginia. … I think Debbie will have just as much, if not more, to offer the world after basketball than she has while she’s been coaching basketball.”
—Dena Evans (Col ‘93), former UVA guard, now a coach
“Debbie has been one of the most influential people in my life. Without the opportunity that she gave me and the support I received at the University of Virginia, my life would be totally different than it is today. She will be missed by all her players, present and former, but most importantly, the game will miss her.”
—Geno Auriemma, Connecticut head coach and former UVA assistant coach