Someday in the future, Sue Guevara says she’ll sit out on her deck in mid-Michigan, retired, drink in hand — Fresca, Grey Goose vodka, with a twist of lime, she says, not sure she prefers that printed — and simply smile, thinking back on the 2017-18 season, the most-fun season of them all.
That day, though, is not in the near feature.
Fresh off the most-successful season in Central Michigan women’s basketball history, she’s not thinking about the end, but rather that this is just the beginning.
“I do get to turn 64 in July, and the way I feel, you could just reverse those numbers. That’s how I feel,” Guevara said this week, back in Mount Pleasant following the Chippewas’ historic run to the Sweet 16. “I love going to the gym, I love going to practice.
“My hands before a game are ice cold and sweating. When my hands stop doing that, I’ll probably be done.”
Guevara just completed her 11th season at Central Michigan, and was a head coach at Michigan for seven seasons prior to that. She’s been coaching basketball, at some collegiate level, every year since 1979.
Her current contract, signed in 2015, runs through the 2019-20 season, and she jokes that she has to get university president George Ross to extend her deal before he retires in July. Regardless, she’s already very nicely compensated — this year, she earned $234,000 in base pay, plus at least another $90,000 in a slew of performance bonuses — and, gosh darn it, did she mention how much fun she’s having?
“It’s been such a good relationship,” said Guevara, who calls her latest team “no drama,” but, like its coach, it has some sass — like junior guard Presley Hudson, who just loved showing Guevara a photo of her, circa 1984 or 1985, that she recently unearthed via a Google search.
“I keep saying that to people and they’re like, ‘Yeah, blah, blah, blah,’ but it’s so true. And not every coach can say this.”
Central Michigan, with lofty preseason expectations from inside and outside the program, handled the pressure swimmingly, finishing the season 30-5, winning the Mid-American Conference regular-season and tournament championships, then earning its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory (LSU), then its second (Ohio State).
The Chippewas lost only twice after Dec. 21, once to Buffalo — another MAC team that made the NCAA Tournament and Sweet 16, the duo marking the second and third MAC teams ever to make it that far — and once to Oregon, ending the run. A run that Guevara says was super special, but magical, well, not so much.
“Everybody keeps talking about Cinderella,” Guevara said. “Cinderella? We got invited to the ball, and we didn’t need magic slippers.
“We don’t need a fairy godmother.”
They needed a Tinara Moore, a senior from Southgate, who was a menace in the post, earned MAC player of the year honors, and earned Associated Press All-America honorable-mention honors, the latter a first for the program. Moore will be gone next year, as will Wyandotte guard Cassie Breen. But sharp-shooter Hudson (Wayland, 18.3 ppg, 112 of 120 on free throws) will be back, as will forward Reyna Frost (Reese) and guard Micaela Kelly (Detroit King/DePaul), and a promising, four-player recruiting class that, for the first time in program history, doesn’t include any players from Michigan.
Central Michigan, stunningly ousted in the quarterfinals of the MAC tournament a year ago, wore the target squarely on its back this year, and definitely will next year. The players are on a Guevara-ordered, mandatory two-week “timeout” right now, then the season-ending banquet is Friday the 13th, in April, and Ross sometime later this spring plans to have the team over to his house for a barbecue — they can have steak, chicken, shrimp, it’s dealer’s choice, as part of a promise he made to them in December if they won the MAC tournament in March. Then, it’ll be off to work again, trying to do what Guevara preaches, go one step further than the year before.
“Team 51, here you go,” Guevara said. “It’s a great challenge. They’re going to take it to heart.”
Just like, someday, Guevera will take to her patio.
Just not anytime soon.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN WOMEN 2018-19 OUTLOOK
* Emari Bell, F/C, Altamonte Springs, Fla.
* Samantha Robinson, F, Bradford, Ontario
* Jahari Smith, C, Romeoville, Ill.
* Anika Weekes, G, Toronto
* Cassie Breen, G
* Amani Corley, G
* Tinara Moore, F
* Aleah Swardy, G
* Gabrielle Bird, F
* Kyra Bussell, F
* Reyna Frost, F
* Averi Gamble, C
* Presley Hudson, G
* Sophia Karasinski, G
* MacKenna Kelly, G/F
* Micaela Kelly, G
* Kalle Martinez, G
* Jaeda Robinson, G
* Maddy Watters, G
* Annie Yost, C