FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas head women’s basketball coach Susie Gardner announced her resignation effective immediately this afternoon.
“I’d like to thank Dr. (John) White and Bev Lewis for giving me the chance to live my dream come true, to coach in the SEC,” Gardner said. “We didn’t turn the corner as fast as I had hoped, and different circumstances seemed to prevent that from happening as quickly as I wanted.
“The opportunity to work with the wonderful people at the University, the great supporters we have at Arkansas and to coach great players has been something I will never forget.”
Women’s Athletics Director Bev Lewis accepted her decision, and indicated that a nationwide search would begin to find a replacement for the fourth-year head coach.
“We appreciate Susie’s efforts, and wish her well in her future endeavors,” Lewis said. “We talked at length today, and we were in agreement that there was a need for change.”
Gardner met with Lewis Friday afternoon then informed the team later in the evening.
Gardner became the University’s women’s basketball coach four seasons ago after an outstanding career at Austin Peay State University. Gardner led APSU to three straight NCAA tournaments before arriving at Arkansas.
With the Lady Razorbacks, Gardner compiled a record of 64-54 and had several notable achievements, including the best start in school history this year at 15-1 and a top 20 ranking this season.
In SEC competition, however, Gardner’s teams never produced a winning mark and Arkansas was 16-40 during her tenure. At the SEC tournament, Arkansas was only 1-4.
This season’s team finished the year 18-13, but with a school-record 10-game losing streak, nine straight to SEC opponents. This broke the record of nine straight set by last year’s team.
Arkansas closed the season on Thursday with a first-round loss to Kentucky at the SEC Tournament in Duluth, Ga.
Gardner’s first season produced the University’s first SEC player of the year in women’s basketball as senior Shameka Christon elevated her game to over 20 ppg to lead the league in scoring under Gardner’s tutelage.
Her second year ended with the only post-season appearance of her time at Arkansas as the Lady’Backs went 17-14 and reached the second round of the WNIT. Arkansas went 13-15 last season as Gardner lost three starters to season-ending injuries. While it was the first losing season at Arkansas since the 1990-91 season, it also saw the Lady’Backs make their best start in SEC play in school history at 5-1.
This year, Arkansas had its first all-conference player, post Lauren Ervin, since Christon, and Arkansas roared out to a 15-1 start in non-conference play. The Lady’Backs were 3-2 against SEC teams before starting the season-ending slide.
In addition to Christon, Gardner also coached the first player in SEC history to win back-to-back SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors, current senior Sarah Pfeifer.
Gardner’s career record is 176-146 including her time with APSU. She was inducted into the APSU Hall of Fame this season, the first women’s coach honored by the Clarksville, Tenn., school.