Feb. 21, 2012
AUBURN - Nell Fortner, who has served as Auburn's women's basketball coach for the last eight seasons, has resigned effective at the conclusion of the season, announced Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs Tuesday. In eight seasons, Fortner has a 143-105 record at Auburn.
"I love Auburn and have absolutely loved my time here during the course of the last eight years. I have dedicated the last 28 years to coaching basketball and feel it is time for me to pursue something different," Fortner said. "This was not an easy decision, as I have contemplated this for several months, but I am looking forward to the change. I'm proud of where the Auburn program is and what we've accomplished.
Auburn has great leadership under Dr. Gogue, Jay Jacobs and Meredith Jenkins, and the future here is very bright. I want to thank my staff and players--both former and current, along with the administration and entire Auburn family for their support during my time at Auburn. It has been eight of the best years of my life and I look forward to following and supporting the program in the future."
Fortner was named the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year and Basketball Times National Coach of the year after leading Auburn to its first SEC regular season title in 20 years in 2008-09, while posting a 30-4 record and 12-2 league mark.
Auburn advanced to postseason play four times under Fortner, playing in the NCAA Tournament in 2008 and 2009, while making appearances in the WNIT in 2007 and 2011.
"We respect Nell's desire to pursue other opportunities and appreciate everything that she's done for Auburn," Jacobs said. "Nell has been a tremendous ambassador for Auburn Athletics, the university and our community, always willing to be a team player. She achieved success on the court and developed her players athletically, academically and socially. I have the utmost respect for Nell and want to thank her for her contributions to the women's basketball program and the Auburn community during her eight years at Auburn."
Fortner came to Auburn in 2004 after serving as head coach of the WNBA's Indiana Fever from 2001-03. Prior to the Fever, she was the head coach of the U.S. Women's National team that won a gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
A native of Jackson, Miss., Fortner was the head coach at Purdue in 1996-97, leading the Boilermakers to a Big Ten Co-Championship. Fortner began her coaching career as a graduate assistant and assistant at Stephen F. Austin from 1986-90 and was an assistant at Louisiana Tech for five seasons. She was an assistant for USA Basketball from 1995-96, helping the team capture gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Fortner played at Texas from 1977-81 and graduated from UT in 1981.
Auburn will close out the regular season with a pair of home games against Alabama on Thursday and Ole Miss on Sunday. Thursday's game will tip at 8 p.m. CT, with Sunday's regular season finale at 2:30 p.m.
PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
Auburn Head Coach Nell Fortner
"First let me just say this: I absolutely love Auburn. It has been a great place for me for the past eight years, and I have enjoyed every minute here. The opportunity that (Director of Athletics) Jay (Jacobs) and (Senior Women's Administrator) Meredith (Jenkins) have given me here has just been outstanding, their support and everything. I want you to know first and foremost that today is my decision, period. Period. There could not have been any more shock in Jay and Meredith's face when I sat down with them and told them my desire, and they have been nothing but supportive in making sure I was OK and making sure this was what I wanted, and I appreciate that from them. So it's a good day for me in the sense that I've had 28 years of recruiting, and I've had a great career. I'm not going to say great. I've had a wonderful time, and I've had some great experiences. I'm just ready to do something else. That's the bottom line. I'm just happy that it has been accepted here by this administration, and I thank them for their full support, and I look forward to the next phase of my life. I will coach the rest of the season and the SEC Tournament, and we'll try and win as many ballgames as we can and do the best we can, and this team is going to play and fight as hard as they can and look forward to those games."
Auburn Director of Athletics Jay Jacobs
"Nell, thank you for what you've done for women's basketball here at Auburn. Probably more importantly is the way that, you know a lot of times in life, you make decisions for yourself, and this is probably the most selfless decision that's ever been made. She came to us, and she knew that she wanted to continue to coach, but she gave Auburn the best opportunity to move forward. I've always had the utmost respect for Nell, but after our meeting last week, I had a newfound level of respect for her. I appreciate her as a person, as a friend, and I look forward to you hopefully staying in the Auburn community for a long time."
"And I am. I love this community, and I plan on being here and being a big Auburn fan, and I love the Auburn family, and I'll stay in the Auburn family that way, so thanks Jay."
On the players' reactions...
"Well I mean, players are going to get emotional. It was emotional in there, but you know, they're resilient too. They're kids. It hits them hard, and then they move on and think about what they're going to have for dinner. It's tough. It's been tough for the staff, but we're all going to be OK. Everybody's going to be all right and move on."
On the hardest part being about her staff having to go out and find jobs...
"Absolutely. Telling the staff and telling my team were absolutely my two hardest things, and they've all been great. My staff was great and supportive, and the team struggled a little bit, but they'll be OK. We'll be on that practice floor tomorrow and get after it and be ready to play Alabama on Thursday."
On when she knew she was going to resign...
"When you've coached for 28 years, it's not something that just happens to you overnight. It's an accumulation over time. I don't know if I could pinpoint a certain specific time. You just know when it's time. You know, you just know. When it finally got to the point that I knew, I just went in and talked to Jay and Meredith and that's just it. I can't pinpoint a certain time, but it's the right time."
On if she has any idea what she's going to do now...
"I don't. I'm going to go to Florida and jump on my paddle board and swim around with the dolphins for a little bit, but there's a lot of life to be lived. I'm young enough to go do something else and go enjoy some down time and see what else is out there. I have a lot of interests in a lot of stuff. I have a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm for life, and I want to go live it a little bit, so that's what I'm going to do."
AD Jay Jacobs
On how he'll approach the search for a new coach...
"I'll be heading up the search along with Meredith Jenkins, and we're going to find the best coach for this women's basketball team. Someone that can continue to build on the social aspect, the spiritual aspect, the mental aspect and the athletic aspect that Nell has started here. We'll be efficient, and we'll be thorough, and we'll get it done as soon as we possibly can, but we're under no time constraints."
On his reaction and the meeting with Coach Fortner...
"Nell, she doesn't beat around the bush very much, if you don't know her. She walked in and before I could offer her something to drink, she said, `I think I'm done.' I can imagine what Meredith and I looked like, but that's what it was. She already knew. I think I asked her, `Are you at peace about this?' and she said, `I am.' As I said earlier, I just respect her, and when she knew that it was time for her to do something else, that she came and did what she's always done and what she thought was best for this program and this women's basketball team."
On if she has any regrets...
"I don't have any regrets at all. Of course as a coach, you wish you could win more, and that's probably the one thing you're always wanting to do is just win more. I have no regrets. We have great kids here. They are character kids. They are great in the classroom. They have made us proud on and off the floor. Yeah, if we could've had more wins, sure, that would have been fantastic. I'm most proud of the program. I think that we all, my staff how they represent the program, the kids. It's just solid, and I'm so proud of that. I know that the next coach that comes in here is going to be happy about what they're going to take over, and that makes me proud."
On wanting to finish out strong...
"I haven't lost my fire. We've all dug our heels in this year and worked as hard as we can to get the most out of these players, and we'll continue to do that to the very end. I wouldn't say it motivates me anymore. I'm always motivated. We'll just continue doing what we're doing and help these kids win a ballgame."