MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. (WOOD) — After 13 years and back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Sue Guevara-era of Central Michigan University women’s basketball couldn’t have been flying higher.
Then it ended in the blink of an eye.
The 65-year-old coach announced her retirement on Friday morning. Her contract with the Chippewas was set to expire in 2019-20.
“I am in good health, I am not dying,” Guevara said at her exit press conference. “No one asked me to leave, it’s been a real long process for me.”
Guevara went on to explain that she was tired following the 2018-19 campaign, which came to an end with her team falling to Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana during the NCAA Tournament.
“I was with the team this morning and they were running, and I knew what I was about to do in an hour, but I couldn’t take my coaching hat off yet,” she said.
“I barked at them a little bit. I told them ‘you give 100 percent, 100 percent of the time.’ I told our players if you are going to do that, I have to do that. I didn’t feel like I could give our players 100 percent.”
Going into spring workouts, Guevara didn’t feel like she was giving everything she had. Fatigue was showing. She went to Ireland and felt her “mojo” would come back. It was a bucket list item of Guevara’s to visit the country.
Instead, she realized this is something she wanted to do more but couldn’t if she was still coaching the Chippewas.
After going through a shoulder surgery where she was away from CMU for two months, she was able to relax and think about if she could really go back into McGuirk Arena and give everything she had.
The answer came full circle Friday.
Guevara coached basketball for 39 years, including seven as the head coach at the University of Michigan (1996-2003).
She started as an assistant coach for Saginaw Valley State University in 1979, where she played and graduated from in 1982.
In 1984, she became a graduate assistant for Ohio State. After a stint with Ball State for a year, she headed to East Lansing.
From 1986-96, Guevara was an assistant coach for the Spartans.
After landing the head coaching spot with the Wolverines, she went to Auburn for three years (2004-07). Then in 2007-08, Guevara began as CMU’s head coach.
She always referred to herself as a “recycled coach” that CMU took a chance on. Now, she is viewed as one of the most legendary coaches to step on campus in Mount Pleasant.
“I spent 39 years of my life with a little brown ball, and to be quite honest folks, I hope I have 39 years left,” Guevara said with a smile.
“I said to Michael (Alford) I only need two things from you: I’m giving myself a birthday present it’s retirement and I need your blessing. He said ‘No, I need another year.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry but I can’t do it.’ The other thing I need is for you to really, really give Heather (Oesterle) a hard look.”
CMU’s Athletic Director Alford indeed did hire Oesterle, who spent nine seasons under Guevara, most recently as an associate head coach.
With tears in her eyes, Oesterle opened her press conference praising Guevara for everything she has done for her.
“(Guevara) has been preparing me for this for nine days, and I’m going to miss being around you every day,” Oesterle said to Guevara during the press conference. “I hope you come back as much as possible.”
For now, this was Guevara’s final moments in the arena she built memories in for a lifetime. Chippewa fans will never forget the tenure that changed CMU women’s basketball.
It started with a 7-22 campaign in 2007. It ended with three consecutive MAC regular-season titles and back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Over the 12 seasons, Guevara compiled a 231-156 record to become CMU’s all-time winningest coach. She also added MAC Tournament titles in 2014 and 2018.
There’s no place that Guevara would’ve rather had her historic career come to a close.
“I’ve been to a lot of different places, I’ve been around the block,” Guevara said. “This community has been outstanding and it’s the best one I’ve been at.”