published Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Chattanooga Mocs' Jim Foster set to join eight at 800

UTC head coach Jim Foster is going for his 800th coaching win.

All-Time Coaching Wins in NCAA Division I Women's Basketball (through games of Jan. 21)

1. Pat Summitt, Tennessee (1974-2012): 1,098-208

2. Sylvia Hatchell, Francis Marion (1976-86), North Carolina (1986-present): 923-324

3. C. Vivian Stringer, Cheyney State (1971-83), Iowa (1983-95), Rutgers (1995-present): 914-336

4. Tara VanDerveer, Idaho (1978-80), Ohio State (1980-85), Stanford (1985-present): 912-204

5. Jody Conradt, Sam Houston State (1969-73), Texas-Arlington (1973-76), Texas (1976-2007): 900-309

6. Geno Auriemma, Connecticut (1985-present): 858-133

7. Andy Landers, Georgia (1980-present): 837-280*

8. Robin Selvig, Montana (1979-present): 807-261

9. Jim Foster, St. Joseph's (1979-91), Vanderbilt (1992-2002), Ohio State (2003-13), UTC (2013-present): 799-310

* Landers went 82-21 at Roane State Community College (1975-79)

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball coach Jim Foster has sidestepped questions concerning his next victory for the past two weeks. It's not something that concerns the 36-year coaching veteran.

But even if he's not speaking too much of the major milestone, some of his longtime colleagues have been.

Foster will lead his 16-3 Mocs back into McKenzie Arena today for a Southern Conference game against Samford, starting at 4 and being shown on ESPN3. A win would be his 800th, a level reached by only eight others in NCAA Division I women's basketball history.

The coach, who was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame last year, currently sits at 799-310 after long stints at St. Joseph's (248-126), Vanderbilt (256-99) and Ohio State (279-82). He has taken 26 teams to the NCAA tournament, with eight of them advancing to the Sweet 16, four to the Elite Eight and one to the Final Four.

His career started at Bishop McDevitt High School in Cheltenham Township, Pa., as the assistant boys' coach and head girls' coach before taking the St. Joseph's job in 1979. Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma was Foster's assistant at Bishop McDevitt before serving in the same role at St. Joseph's for one year.

"The big thing about Jim Foster has been his consistency," Auriemma said. "There are very few coaches who have been able to coach at four totally different schools, still coach at an extremely high level and have a great impact on the game. I learned a lot from him as a person and coach, and I think the players that played for him are an example of how he runs his program. I am really proud to have known him and to have followed his career, and I expect him to win a lot more games."

Foster is best remembered in the South for his time at Vanderbilt, where he coached from 1992 to 2002. He helped build the Commodores' success and had a number of memorable battles with Tennessee and Georgia when the SEC tournament was being held in Chattanooga. In seven trips then to McKenzie Arena, Foster guided his program to tournament titles in 1993 and 1995 and a runner-up finish in 1994.

"The first thing I would say about him is that any time you played a Jim Foster-coached team, you knew you had to be prepared because his team would be," said Georgia coach Andy Landers, who is seventh all-time in wins in Division I with 837. "To win 800 games, you have to have a combination of two things: You have to be blessed with talent good enough to put you in a position to win, and you have to have talent coached at a high level. When you put those two together, you win a lot of basketball games and a lot of big basketball games.

"Any time we played Vanderbilt, there were anxious times as a coach to make sure your I's were dotted and your T's were crossed, because you knew you were playing a disciplined team."

Foster also has spent time coaching the United States national team, helping secure five gold medals and one bronze during his time on the staff. Dawn Staley fondly remembered the Philadelphia native as a "silly" individual but a winner.

"Coach Foster is one that has a great basketball mind. If you look at what he'd done, his winning percentage tells you that he's a winner," Staley said. "He finds ways to put his team on the floor and a great chance to win every time out, and he's what you want as a coach because you know you have a shot at winning every time you step on the floor."

"As he nears 800 wins, I'm not surprised. I don't know who the quickest to 800 wins is, but he's got a great percentage and I hope to someday follow in his footsteps."

Foster's first UTC team is 8-0 in the Southern Conference. The Mocs have a 12-game win streak, have won 24 straight in league play and have the nation's longest home win streak at 34 games.

"I think it's always a nice gift to give your coach, and we're going to fight to do that," UTC senior forward Ashlen Dewart said. "We love playing for him and love his style. We're still getting used to it and accustomed to it, but we love it.

"It'll feel good to help him get that milestone."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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