Sharon Fanning-Otis may be stepping away from the Mississippi State women's basketball program at the end of the season, but her legacy will not be forgotten by some of her former players.
Fanning-Otis has coached some great players in her 17 years as the head coach in Starkville.
Maybe the best player to play for her was LaToya Thomas. Thomas played for Fanning-Otis for four years and was a four-time Kodak All-American. She was also the overall first pick in the 2003 WNBA Draft by the Cleveland Rockers.
Mary Kathryn Whittle (Govero) graduated in 2011 and lettered all four years under Fanning-Otis.
"I know it's hard for her," Whittle said. "It's all she knows and she has been doing it for a long time. But I know she is excited for the opportunity for more time to herself. She put in a lot of effort and time when she was coaching. She deserves the best in her future."
Whittle is now the head coach of the girls' basketball team at Starkville Christian School.
Whittle played her high school ball at Mt. Salus Christian School, a small private school in Clinton.
She didn't have many options to play basketball after high school and is grateful to Fanning-Otis for the opportunity to play in the Southeastern Conference.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for her," Whittle said. "She gave me a chance when nobody else would. She saw something in me. I developed a relationship with her and got to know her as a person. I am thankful for her."
Whittle was a part of the team that went to the Sweet 16 in 2009.
Robin Porter played for Fanning-Otis from 2005-2008. She is now an assistant coach for the Itawamba Community College women's basketball team.
She remembers Fanning-Otis has being a nice and loving person, but also expecting her players to have a desire to win.
"She was a very kind person," Porter said. "Off the court, she was there for you. On the court, she was a coach. She wanted to win and expected you to want to win."
Porter knows how hard this decision must have been for Fanning-Otis, but also knows it is good for her to find a life outside of basketball.
"I'm sure it was hard, but I'm sure it's good for her," Porter said. "It's good for her to find herself outside of basketball."
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