April 4, 2011
Albuquerque, N.M. --- Don Flanagan, a name that has become synonymous with University of New Mexico women's basketball, has announced his retirement from coaching after 16 seasons with the Lobos. Flanagan totaled 32 years of coaching in the Duke City, counting a phenomenal 16-year run at Eldorado High School. Flanagan leaves the Lobos with every single coaching record, including eight NCAA Tournament appearances, five conference tournament titles and five WNIT appearances. Under Flanagan, the Lobos went from a downtrodden program into a perennial national contender.
"Don Flanagan is synonymous with Lobo women's basketball, and his career is unprecedented," said Paul Krebs, vice president for athletics. "Don turned this program around, and not only made the Lobos contenders, but he impacted the lives of so many young women. What he was able to do with his team on the court and in the classroom from the championships to the academic awards is to be commended. He will be missed."
Flanagan's numbers were staggering for the Lobos, as in 16 seasons he rang up a record of 340-168, including a conference record of 150-88 spanning both the Western Athletic Conference and the Mountain West Conference. What makes the numbers more amazing is knowing what he inherited.
"I was fortunate for the last 16 years to coach so many outstanding student-athletes," said Don Flanagan. "I appreciate their contribution and all of the fans' support that we received. To represent the university and the state of New Mexico was a great pleasure."
Hired to run the program on April 16, 1995, the Lobos had a record of 14-96 the previous four seasons. He equaled that win output in his first season with the program, going 14-15 and taking the Lobos to the title game of the Western Athletic Conference tournament, the first time a first-year women's basketball coach took his team into the WAC title game.
The next season started a string of 14 consecutive winning seasons, and a run of 13 consecutive postseason appearances that began in year three as New Mexico set a school record with a 26-7 record, winning the WAC tournament and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. That season started a run where the Lobos qualified for the NCAA Tournament eight times, and the Women's NIT five times.
The pinnacle of his coaching career came in 2003 when he took the Lobos to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. While the NCAA Tournaments, conference titles, and accolades might be considered highlights, perhaps Flanagan's greatest accomplishments with the program happened inside the classroom. In his 16 years, the women's basketball team averaged a 3.22 grade point average, and 102 of his players earned academic all-conference awards. He also has two players make it to the WNBA.
"To represent the university and the state of New Mexico was a great pleasure."
--- Don Flanagan
The Lobos missed the postseason this year, going 13-18 overall with a youthful squad. New Mexico's season was damaged early when the Lobos lost two guards Sara Halasz and Nikki Nelson just prior to the season with knee injuries, forcing a host of position switches. However, Flanagan again wielded some conference tournament magic, pulling off a string of upsets, including knocking off the two-seed Wyoming, in getting the Lobos to the MWC semifinals. The team averaged 7,677 fans per game at The Pit, and Amanda Best earned Third Team Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American honors. Best was one of five players under Flanagan to earn national or regional academic awards from CoSIDA.
Noted for stifling defense under Flanagan, New Mexico has finished among the conference leaders in scoring defense every year and has consistently ranked in the top 20 in the nation in that category. Fan support has been tremendous as a result of the Lobos' defense and intense style of play. The Lobos have been in the Top 5 in the nation in home attendance for seven of the last 11 years and in the Top 10 since the 1998-99 season, a string of 13 straight seasons.
Flanagan oversaw a stretch from 2000 to 2009 where the Lobos won 20 games nine consecutive times, winning five Mountain West Conference Tournament titles, and advancing to at least the MWC semifinals eight of those nine seasons.
Flanagan won a pair of coach of the year awards during his time, being named Mountain West Coach of the Year in 2004-05, and then being named Russell Athletic/WBCA Region Seven Coach of the Year in 2005-06.
Easily the all-time wins leader in Lobo women's basketball history, Flanagan took just 133 games to set the record with his 90th win, topping Doug Hoselton, who was 89-105 in seven seasons from 1980-87.
Flanagan inherited a program that struggled both in conference and on the road. Quickly under the veteran coach, the Lobos ended streaks of 54 consecutive road losses and 34 consecutive WAC losses.
Flanagan's work with the Lobo women's basketball program continued his wonderful work in the Duke City. Flanagan was hired after 16 seasons at Albqueruque's Eldorado High School, where he posted a win-loss record that likely will never be duplicated in New Mexico. He went an incredible 401-13 in his career, a winning percentage of .969
Flanagan's accomplishments included 14 tournament championships, 15 district championships, winning streaks of 77, 74, 69, 66 and 60 games respectively, and his teams averaged 25 wins a year over 16 years. During those 16 years, Flanagan's teams went undefeated nine times. In 1987, Eldorado was honored as Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame Team of the Year. Additionally, Eldorado was ranked nationally seven different years, including 1980, 1981, 1984, 1988, 1990, 1991 and 1992.
It didn't stop there. The honors for Flanagan have rolled in continuously year after year. Following the 1997-98 season, Flanagan was inducted into the Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame for a lifetime of achievement. He was nominated for National High School Coach of the Year honors on three occasions (1985, 1994 and 1995) and was named Region VIII Coach of the Year for 10 consecutive years (1985-94). He was named Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame Coach of the Year (1992), Bank of America Coach of the Year (1993 & 1994), Albuquerque Tribune Coach of the Year (1980, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987 and 1990) and Albuquerque Journal Coach of the Year (1980, 1981, 1984, 1987, 1990 and 1992). In 2002, Flanagan was inducted into the East Hartford Connecticut Explorers Tip-Off Club Hall of Fame and in 2003 he was inducted to the Fort Lewis College Hall of Fame.
A national search for Flanagan's successor will begin immediately, and Associate Head Coach Yvonne Sanchez will run the program as interim head coach. Flanagan, 67, and his wife Wahleah, have three sons, Sean, Shane, and Brent. A press conference will be held Tuesday afternoon by Coach Flanagan in The Pit at 1 p.m.