By Neil Patrick Healy
More than 30 years after accepting her first coaching job back in 1984, Jane Albright has won her 500th career game. The Nevada head coach came into the 2015-2016 season with 496 career wins and beat San Diego State Jan. 27 to reach the career milestone. With the win against the Aztecs, Nevada’s record improved to 4-15 overall and 3-5 in Mountain West Conference play.
Albright, who is ranked 31st among active women’s basketball coaches, began her career as the head coach at Northern Illinois from 1984-1994. Albright’s tenure with the Huskies resulted in a 188-110 record with four NCAA tournament appearances in her final five seasons before getting hired by the University of Wisconsin. From 1994-2002, she compiled a 161-107 and finished the 2002 season as the all-time leader in career wins. After a successful career with the Badgers, Albright became the head coach of Wichita State University, where she went 48-95 from 2003-2007.
Albright took over Nevada in 2008 and has compiled a 103-137 record. Over the course of her career, Albright has made nine NCAA appearances, is the all-time leader in wins at both Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, won the 2000 WNIT with Wisconsin, was named the conference coach of the year on four separate occasions and has a career record of 500-449.
Albright’s last two seasons have been plagued with injuries, including the loss of three starters to torn ACLs this season.
“At the beginning of the season when no one had gotten hurt it was a conversation where we were talking about championships, so 500 was kind of on the checklist,” said senior forward Nyasha LeSure. “After all those injuries happened it was something that we were trying to get her before the season ends. If we don’t have a good season, at least we were there for Coach’s milestone to hit 500.”
Despite the attention fixed on her, Albright made it a point to shift the attention away from her.
“After the game we were excited that we won and Coach was excited that we won and then we were like ‘oh shoot, it’s 500!’ and we freaked out for her because she’s not going to freak out for herself,” LeSure said. “It was just really exciting to be a part of that and just see how humble she really is. After the game she was like ‘no, it’s you, guys.’”
Sophomore forward Teige Zeller said that the topic of 500 wins was such a non-issue with coach Albright that the players didn’t even know that the game against San Diego State was the landmark win until it was over.
“The only moment where we were like ‘oh my gosh’ was on the bench in San Diego. The last seconds running down and we were like ‘guys, this is coach Jane’s 500th!’” Zeller said. “It was a really cool moment. She tries to take the spotlight off of herself. She deserves so much. We love coach Jane so much and she’s such an awesome woman. You want to do your best for her and you want to help get she deserves.”
Albright is known for not only being a good coach, but she also takes pride in being a people person.
“I told my team after the game that I don’t remember where I was after 400 wins or whom we played,” Albright said. “Someone asked me whom my first win was against and I had no idea. It doesn’t really matter, but I can tell you every player I’ve ever coached and every staff member I’ve ever worked with.”
Neil Patrick Healy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NP_Healy.