Chattanooga's Jim Foster retires, ends career with 903 wins

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) Jim Foster believes this is the right time for him to step away from women's basketball.

After a four-decade career, Foster is retiring with 903 wins and the distinction of being the only women's basketball coach to earn NCAA Tournament bids with four different schools - the last at Chattanooga.

Foster, who ranks seventh among all NCAA women's basketball coaches in wins, said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He noted all the times his wife, Donna, has moved to accommodate his coaching pursuits.

"It was time for her to stay where she wanted to move and what she wanted to do," Foster said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference. "This is a two-way street."

Foster said he came to his decision on a trip to New Zealand, where he appreciated the beauty of his surroundings and noted how well the rest of Chattanooga's staff was working in his absence. He believes he's leaving Chattanooga's program in a good place.

He also said the recent death of former Ohio and Western Carolina men's coach Larry Hunter caught his attention.

Hunter, who had 702 career wins, died Friday at the age of 68 after suffering a stroke earlier in the week. Hunter had just stepped down as Western Carolina's coach in March.

"That sort of thing wakes you up," Foster said. "You have no control over what your future is. You can sit there and think about what you're going to do or what you'd like to do."

Foster said he looks forward to spending more time with his grandchildren.

He earned his 900th career victory when Chattanooga won at Western Carolina this past season to tie former Texas coach Jody Conradt for seventh on the all-time list. Foster would earn three more wins to end his career with a 903-347 mark in 40 seasons.

He also has quite an impressive coaching tree.

Foster began his head coaching career at Saint Joseph's, where his assistants included Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma and Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw.

Auriemma and McGraw are both members of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I watched him take St. Joe's and then Vanderbilt and then Ohio State and now Chattanooga to the NCAA Tournament and to elevate their programs," Auriemma said in a statement. "I'm really proud to have been associated with Jim and I'm happy for him. I'm happy that he gets to do this the way he wants to do it, and he's getting a chance to do it on his own terms. I'm really thrilled for him and Donna, and I know he's going to enjoy his retirement."

Foster went 120-40 at Chattanooga the last five years and led the Mocs to four straight Southern Conference regular season and tournament titles from 2014-17. Foster also went 248-126 at Saint Joseph's, 256-99 at Vanderbilt and 279-82 at Ohio State. He reached a Final Four with Vanderbilt in 1993.

"Coach Foster laid the foundation of excellence for Vanderbilt women's basketball and we are grateful for the opportunity to build on that foundation," Vanderbilt coach Stephanie White said in a statement. "He has been a servant leader in the women's basketball community for 40 years and has impacted everyone he has touched along the way. He leaves behind a legacy of pride, integrity and success."

Foster is the only coach to reach the Top 25 with four different schools. He was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

"Cutting down nets is great," Foster said. "Watching people grow up is better."

The only women's basketball coaches to exceed Foster's win total are former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, Stanford's Tara VanDerveer, Auriemma, North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell, Bentley's Barbara Stevens and Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer. Stevens is a Division II coach.

"He is, if you spend any time with him, the most genuine man," Chattanooga athletic director Mark Wharton said. "He cares about his players, past and present. He cares about his staff a tremendous amount."

Katie Burrows, a former Chattanooga player who worked as an assistant coach on Foster's staff, will serve as the Mocs' interim head coach while the school conducts a nationwide search for Foster's replacement.

Updated May 8, 2018