March 30, 2000

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Oklahoma women's basketball coach Sherri Coale finished second, behind Geno Auriemma of top-ranked Connecticut, for Associated Press National Coach of the Year honors as announced Thursday at the Women's Basketball Final Four in Philadelphia, Pa.

Coale led this year's team to the NCAA Sweet 16, a share of the Big 12 Conference regular season title with a 13-3 mark and a school record 25 wins. Her team also set five school records and appeared among the school's all-time top 10 in 15 team categories.

Oklahoma defeated BYU, 86-81, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. OU then knocked off defending national champions Purdue, 74-72, after trailing by 17 points on the Boilmakers home court in West LaFayette, Ind. She also led OU to its first national ranking in five years.

Coale opened her collegiate coaching career with a 5-22 record, followed by an 8-19 campaign in 1998. Last year, Coale took OU to the WNIT and finished the year with an overall record of 15-14. After struggling to just 28 wins in her first three years, Coale's Sooners were 25-8 this season and finished the year ranked 18th in the Associated Press poll. Oklahoma had won just 13 conference games over the past three years prior to the 1999-2000 season.

Auriemma, who has turned Connecticut into one of the nation's strongest and most visible programs, received the coach of the year award for the third time. His team is 34-1 and was ranked No. 1 all season.

In a vote of AP member newspapers and broadcast outlets nationwide, Tennessee's Tamika Catchings edged Connecticut's Svetlana Abrosimova, 19-16, for national player of the year honors. UConn's Shea Ralph was third with 12 votes. Auriemma received 22 votes, four more than Coale.

Catchings has led Tennessee to a 32-3 record with her solid and often brilliant all-around play and kept the player of the year award in the Lady Vols' court for the third straight season. Former teammate Chamique Holdsclaw won in 1998 and 1999.