Coming together to honor the history of the program, and to specifically to celebrate the playing career of one of the all-time Bearcat greats, Valerie King, the collection of former, current and possibly future Bearcats present at today's Big East showdown is a sign of what makes this no ordinary women's basketball program.
What enables this program to have a lasting presence amongst those who left the program long ago is a lasting figure that has been able to stand steadfast and strong during the course of a rocky tenure. Laurie Pirtle has coached over one hundred players in her 20-year reign as the head coach of the University of Cincinnati, many of which were in attendance today, and none of them are quick to forget it – nor her them.
In her two-decade long stint leading the Bearcats, Pirtle has amassed many personal achievements, including the schools all-time win mark which now stands at 293. She has directed UC to seven winnings season in the last nine yeas, earning seven-straight postseason births over the duration, and has even earned a Coach of the Year honor for her leadership of the Bearcats during the 1998-99 season in C-USA. However, what seems to last longest for Pirtle is the relationships and memories she has with so many young girls she has helped turn into upstanding woman.
One such girl-turned-woman is UC living-legend Valerie King, who singled-handedly seemed to rewrite the UC and NCAA record books. The pintsized sharpshooter from Washington Court House, Ohio finished her stellar collegiate playing career with 2,156 points, second on the all-time school scoring list. A 2003 graduate of UC, King, who played overseas for a short time before returning home, was honored at halftime by the University and the basketball program for her achievements on the basketball court. One of only three UC players to score 2,000 points, behind Oscar Robertson and Cheryl Cook, King's on-court heroic also led her to finishing her career in fifth-place in NCAA history in three-point field goals and earned her a spot on the Conference USA All-Decade Team. King even had her name added to the illustrious list of UC all-Americans on the north wall in Fifth Third Arena.
However, with all those basketball achievements aside, King will always be remembered for the person she was and the direction she helped take this program. Under the leadership of Pirtle, this program seeks to remember the past by including, remembering and utilizing the numerous legacies, names, faces, and people that this University has seen come through its doors, such as King. Remembering players such as King, seeing the direction her life has gone since leaving the University, helps let the current Bearcats realize that this program is much older than their arrival and lets them know of a stories legacy of expeactions on and off the basketball court they are expected to live up to.
The Bearcat Insider would like to congratulate Valerie King, Coach Pirtle and all the names and faces that have helped make the University of Cincinnati women's basketball program the entity it is today.
Here is an audio interview with Laurie Pirtle about the Cincinnati basketball tradition: