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SMITH COLUMN: Fanning-Otis got the most out of players

February 29, 2012

Sharon Fanning-Otis cares about her players, about the team and about Mississippi State.

That's why it has been a very emotional time for her after announcing her retirement as the women's basketball coach of the Lady Bulldogs last week.

For the last 17 seasons, she has given every ounce of energy possible to make sure MSU women's basketball was the best it could be.

It takes quite a bit of time and effort to round a program into what it must be to experience success, especially in the tough Southeastern Conference.

Fanning-Otis was tough and fair with her players. She always tried to send a message that success could only be achieved through hard work and focus.

Preparation was always of the utmost importance to Fanning-Otis. She knew if a team did enough to get ready for a game, it would have a chance to win.

Several coaches on the SEC teleconference call on Monday bragged on Fanning-Otis' ability to get the most out of her players.

The Lady Bulldogs have won under Fanning-Otis.

MSU's best season in terms of record was in 2002-03 when it was 24-8 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Bulldogs finished tied for third in the SEC with a 10-4 mark that season.

MSU had 10 winning seasons during Fanning-Otis' 17 years as coach and could achieve another one this year if it wins a few games at the SEC Tournament.

The Lady Bulldogs had made only two postseason appearance (1980-81, 1987-88) prior to Fanning-Otis' arrival in Starkville. Now they have made 13 total trips to the postseason and 11 under Fanning-Otis' leadership.

Fanning-Otis has been able to take MSU to the next level.

The best finish to a season under Fanning-Otis came just two years ago when the Lady Bulldogs advanced all of the way to the NCAA Sweet 16.
During the 1999-2000 season, MSU reached the SEC Tournament championship game for the first time in school history.

Fanning-Otis enjoys coaching and even though she probably has some good years still left in her, she has a family to think about and it was a factor in her choice to step down.

The decision to retire was not made in haste. It's something that Fanning-Otis has discussed with her husband Larry the last few years.
Fanning-Otis may be giving up the position of women's basketball coach, but she's not leaving Mississippi State. A position with the Bulldog Club awaits.

As MSU proceeds in finding a new coach, Fanning-Otis expects the program to move forward and looks forward to following its progress.

Fanning-Otis doesn't want the Lady Bulldogs to quit striving for better things just because she won't be the coach.

"We've had a Sweet 16, but the next step is an Elite Eight and a Final Four," Fanning-Otis said. "You have to have a vision for that. There are a lot skills these young ladies have to develop. It doesn't matter who is coaching or who they are playing. They have to have the skill-set to win those basketball games."

Even though intense as a coach, Fanning-Otis is one of the nicest people you could ever meet.

Fanning-Otis deserves to be happy in her retirement from coaching and best wishes go to her as she enters a new phase of life.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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