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MSU's women's basketball coach earns respect around league

March 1, 2012

MSU women's coach Sharon Fanning-Otis waves to the crowd at last Sunday's game at Humphrey Coliseum. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

Mississippi State women's basketball coach Sharon Fanning-Otis has earned the respect of others in her field around the Southeastern Conference.

As the teams gather in Nashville, Tenn., for the beginning of the SEC Tournament today, several coaches had a chance to reflect on how much Fanning-Otis meant to the game.

Fanning-Otis coaches in her final SEC Tournament as she announced plans to retire last week, effective at the end of the season.

The Lady Bulldogs play the Vanderbilt Lady Commodores at 2:30 p.m. today in the first round of the SEC Tournament.

Even as she prepared her team to try and beat MSU, Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb couldn't help but think about positive things about Fanning-Otis.

"She's been in this game for a long time and I have so much respect for how much she gets out of her players," Balcomb said. "The sign of a great coach is one that gets the most out of her players and I always felt like she did that.

"Her team is very hard-working, especially on the defensive end, rebounding and things that show character. Teams reflect their coach and Sharon has a lot of character, a lot of integrity and does things the right way."

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell was present Sunday when Fanning-Otis was honored by the Lady Bulldogs in the final home game at Humphrey Coliseum.
Mitchell's Lady Wildcats won the SEC regular season title that day, but he could tell it was an emotional day for Fanning-Otis.

It was for Mitchell as well because of the help Fanning-Otis gave him as a young coach.

"She spent so much time with me and helped me develop as a coach," Mitchell said. "She has meant so much to Mississippi State and has given so much to the program. There is always some emotion involved in saying farewell to someone.

"None of us will be here forever and you see coaches come and go. That makes it difficult when it's your friend and mentor who has been through the wars. Coach Fanning-otis has been a great mentor to me."

The coaching career of Fanning-Otis lasted a span of 37 years with the last 17 at Mississippi State. She began as graduate assistant coach under Pat Summitt at Tennessee in 1975-76.

Summitt, who has been in the position of addressing her own future as a coach because of battle with dementia, shared the same thoughts about Fanning-Otis as others.

"She's a wonderful person and very good coach," Summitt said. "Obviously, she gets the best out of her players. We're going to miss her, but she does it the right way and I have a lot of respect for her."
Fanning-Otis has 608 career coaching wins and is the winningest coach in Lady Bulldog history with 281.

Even though they have competed against each other as rivals over the last few years, Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner had nothing but good things to say about Fanning-Otis.

"She has done an outstanding job at Mississippi State," Ladner said. "When I was a high school coach, I followed her teams and now that I'm on the other side of the fence as one of her opponents, I know how hard it is to prepare for their teams and how hard they play.

"She's been outstanding on and off the floor and has been an incredible ambassador for the sport."

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