Buffs Prep for Barry's Final Home Game

According to Colorado basketball legend Shelley Sheetz, college women's basketball is losing a legend. But before CU head coach Ceal Barry retires at the end of the season, she'll lead her team onto the court at Coors Events Center one more time when the Buffs face <A HREF=http://nebraska.Scout.com>Nebraska</A> Wednesday night.

While the Buffs have struggled to just a 1-14 conference record this season and will finish 12th in the Big 12, Colorado will have plenty of extra motivation to beat the Cornhuskers Wednesday.

For one, after a stellar 22-year career in Boulder, Wednesday's game will be Barry's final at home. Two, it's Senior Night and seniors Sarah Lini and Veronica Johns-Richardson will be playing their final game at Coors.

Also, several former Buffalo players have reminded Barry and her team recently that the Buffs have a 20-game home-winning streak vs. Nebraska, and haven't lost to them in Boulder since 1985.

"I've heard from enough former players to keep the streak alive," Barry said after Tuesday's practice. "Nebraska is a team we've got a home-court winning streak going. Our alumni know about it and it's important to them. It's something we can shoot for other than just winning the last home game."

One of those alumni is Sheetz, who is the program's third all-time leading scorer and poured in more 3-pointers than any Buff in school history. Sheetz recorded her career high (31) against the Cornhuskers at Coors in 1992.

"Anytime you talk about Nebraska, that's what we remember," Sheetz said. "They haven't beat Colorado at Colorado in a long time."

Sheetz and several former Buffs will be at Coors Wednesday night. Plans are to honor the two seniors on the current team, as well as Barry, after the game. CU officials are expecting a near full house at the arena to mark Barry's final game.

It's all going to make for an emotional evening. But Barry said the game comes first, then time for sentiment.

"When I'm on the court thinking about basketball, defending Nebraska, boxing out, thinking about all the problems we have from a basketball standpoint, it's easy to focus," she said. "When you get off the court that's when it's a little more difficult to concentrate.

"But tomorrow night is going to be emotional."

Barry said she's at peace with her decision to retire, but that the ramifications won't hit her until a couple years from now. She got into coaching after growing up in a home with five brothers, where competition was a daily ritual. But Barry, who has no children, said she'll miss the relationships with the players most of all.

"A team is like a family," she said. "You're with them every day. You see them when they're up, down, when they're crying, laughing, frustrated. You deal with family issues. That's going to be the biggest thing."

One of those family members is Lini, a forward from Denmark.

"The emotional part, I'm sure it's going to be there," she said about Wednesday's game. "It's going to be a fire that's going to help us in the game."

Lini echoed many of her teammates and former players when talking about how Barry has impacted her life.

"She's my mentor," Lini said. "She's not just a coach. She teaches how you should live your life, not just on the court but also off the court."

On the court, the Buffs found their greatest success when Sheetz, the sharp-shooting point guard, played at CU from the 1991-92 season through the 1994-95 season.

In 1995, Sheetz' senior year, the Buffs set a school-record 25-consecutive wins, hit the 30-win plateau for the only time in program history, went 14-0 in the Big Eight to win their third-straight conference title, and advanced all the way to the Elite Eight before losing a heartbreaking 82-79 game to Georgia. Sheetz was named All-American that year.

"Basketball has defined my life, but Coach Barry has defined my basketball career," said Sheetz, who's an assistant coach at the University of San Diego. "She took my game to a whole other level."

Sheetz said Barry's had an impact on women's college basketball as it evolved to another level over the past two decades.

"College women's basketball is losing a legend," Sheetz said. "It's going to be a sad day for college women's basketball, period. But for all of us who had the opportunity to play for Coach, it goes deeper than that. It's more of the things she taught us: how to carry ourselves on and off the court with class. She taught us about dignity and morals and values.

"I'm sad that high school kids aren't able to go through Coach Barry's program for four years and that they'll miss out on something that was an incredible four years of my life."

Barry says Buffs should hire new coach sooner rather than later
The university is in the midst of searching for an athletic director. On Tuesday, Barry reiterated her opinion Tuesday the athletic department shouldn't wait until a new A.D. is on board before hiring a new women's basketball coach.

The basketball coach search committee includes Barry, associate athletic director Karen Morrison, and Carol Callan (USA Basketball, CU women's basketball radio commentator), who is well-connected in the world of women's college hoops.

Barry said with recruiting heating up in March and April, and several more head coaching jobs opening up, CU can't afford to drag its feet.

"I don't think it would be a good idea to wait," she said. "I think we'll be able to recommend a good candidate."

Barry, who will take an assistant athletic director job later this month, also addressed the idea of her not being a candidate for the new athletic director.

"No one's told me I couldn't apply," she said. "But I've gotten a general feel that (administrators) feel it should be someone with experience who knows how to run a department. It's like bringing in someone to my position who had never been a head coach. They might do that, but to coach against Jody Conradt and Marsha Sharp and Deb Patterson as someone who has never coached a game … it's a gamble. That's probably the same situation for the A.D. spot."

Festivities Planned
Several promotions are set for Wednesday night's game (7 p.m. tipoff): the first 1,000 students and 1,000 general public fans will receive a free commemorative Ceal Barry T-shirt and the first 2,500 fans will receive a Ceal Barry button. It's also Fan Appreciation Night, as there will be a 50 percent discount on CU apparel and merchandise at the novelty stands.

Fans who would like to do so are also asked to bring a card for Ceal with a personal note. Those will be collected at the entrances and presented to her postgame.

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