By Dalton Ray —
When thinking of the powers in women’s college basketball, schools like Connecticut, Tennessee and Stanford come to mind. Louisville is now added to that list thanks to coach Jeff Walz.
With the 33-point dismantling of Oregon State, the Cardinals are headed to their third Final Four in 11 years — all under Walz.
Since Walz took over the program, Louisville is 301-95 (76 percent winning percentage). Additionally, the Cardinals have two title appearances, four Elite Eights and seven Sweet 16s in their 10 NCAA tournaments.
The Cardinals can claim their first title by winning two games in Columbus. To win out would be ideal for Walz, but it’s not everything.
“I’m not going to be defined, our program is not going to be defined … because (we) never won a national championship. That’s not what it’s about,” Walz said. “It’s about the consistency of what you’re able to do year in and year out.”
Consistency has been the definition of the program since Walz took over.
Every Final Four team is unique and special, but for Walz, it’s the off-court impact. Walz became emotional when speaking on how the team plays a role with his family.
“We truly do have wonderful young women who are wonderful role models to my children, to coach (Sam) Purcell’s children and that means more to me than winning basketball games,” Walz said. “When my daughters were out there in the yard, and Lola tells me she’s Lola Hines-Allen today, and Lucy, you’re going to be Lucy Durr … it’s the impact that they have on their lives that means everything to me.”
After the final buzzer went off, the team celebrated, not only with one another but with Walz’s family — including Lola and Lucy as they made confetti angels on the court.
Junior Asia Durr said the win wasn’t just about the players.
“This isn’t just about me and my teammates, this is about our fans, our family, our coaching staff. Without them, we can’t do it,” Durr said.
A team’s brand grows when the program sets expectations and carries them out every year. That culture isn’t something new at Louisville.
“The program was already built (when I came in),” senior Myisha Hines-Allen said. “If you want to be successful … you’ve got to do what the people behind you already done, and that’s play hard, play Louisville ball. … That’s why we’re so successful and we’re here.”
Louisville has flourished under Walz and they’re once again in position to cut down the nets on the nation’s biggest stage.
Walz inherited a program that never reached a Sweet 16 prior to his arrival. He entered with lofty standards, but he has established a national power and has the numbers to back it up.
“When I was hired … I was like I don’t want a good team, I want a program that’s going to compete on a national level,” Walz said. “We have not had one player who’s finished four years and graduated from Louisville that’s not played in a Final Four.”
You can follow Dalton Ray on Twitter @dray5477.
Photo by Karen Nguyen / The Louisville Cardinal