Basketball coach Sue Guevara says farewell to grateful Central Michigan community

Austin Chastain
Special to The Detroit News
Sue Guevara has retired from Central Michigan but her title streak is still alive.

Mount Pleasant – When Sue Guevara played college basketball at Saginaw Valley State, she was never much of a scorer. She was, however, a great passer.

At a press conference on Friday in the John G. Kulhavi Events Center at Central Michigan University, where Guevara announced her retirement, she passed the reins of the CMU women’s basketball team, and a stress ball, to new head coach Heather Oesterle.

“When I played many moons ago, I couldn’t shoot a lick,” said Guevara, 65. “But I was a great passer, so now it’s my turn to make one more assist to Heather.”

That leaves Oesterle in charge of a program that she has been a part of for the last nine seasons. Oesterle watched Guevara become the winningest head coach in program history as Guevara finishes her CMU career with a 231-156 record in 12 seasons and three NCAA Tournament appearances. Her overall record is 337-232, including seven seasons at Michigan and, before that, three at Saginaw Valley.

Guevara explained that she knew the time had come when she made a trip to Ireland with CMU alumni, and a bucket list item had been checked off.

“I’ve been doing this for 39 years and I think I only have only 35 left,” she said. “There’s a lot left on my bucket list and the kids deserve someone who is going to give them 100 percent and that wasn’t me.”

In her 12 years in Mount Pleasant, Guevara guided five players to the professional level. Reyna Frost, Presley Hudson, Tinara Moore and Cassie Breen have showcased their talents throughout Europe. Crystal Bradford, arguably one of Guevara’s best players, played in the WNBA as the No. 7 draft pick from the Los Angeles Sparks in 2015. She then moved into the European game, as well.

One of Guevara’s favorite memories on the CMU bench came from Bradford against Dayton in 2013. The then-junior guard Bradford was streaking down the floor at McGuirk Arena with four seconds left and the game tied at 91. She lost her balance and launched the ball in a desperate attempt to complete a nine-point comeback in 90 seconds. Bradford said she knew it had a chance to go in but did not watch after she fell on her back.

It was the only 3-pointer she hit that night – the dagger to beat Dayton.

“There have been so many,” Guevara said of her CMU memories. “We’ve really had some great games here.”

Guevara said that she went into CMU athletic director Michael Alford’s office on Monday, her 65th birthday, and asked for two things.

“I told Michael that I was going to give myself a birthday present – and that was retirement and I need your blessing,” Guevara said. Alford then replied with a resounding “no.”

Said Guevara: “(Alford) said, ‘I need another year,’ and I said, ‘No, I can’t do it.’”

The other thing she asked was for Alford to seriously consider Oesterle to take control of the program. Because when Oesterle was hired at Central Michigan, she knew she was under the tutelage of a legend and has appreciated the journey.

“For (Guevara) to walk into Michael’s office and say, ‘I need Heather to get this opportunity,’ means the world,” Oesterle said. “She’s done everything possible to help get me into this place.”

Friday’s press conference was open to the public near the lobby of the Kulhavi Events Center, just outside of McGuirk Arena. Every seat was filled, the balcony behind the seating area was packed and there were many standing, watching “Coach G” say a goodbye to the coaching chapter in her life.

After most home games, Guevara would take to the microphone and address the fans. On each occasion she would thank the fans for coming out tell them how much she appreciated their support.

That support was reciprocated on Friday.

 “We have an incredible atmosphere for games and that’s because of our community,” Guevara said. “We play fast, we run and we shoot the three – people want to see that. Because we’re engaged with the community, we have that great atmosphere, and it makes you appreciate what you have.”

Alford was hired by CMU in 2017 and became close friends with Guevara almost instantly. He became emotional at various points throughout Friday’s press conference.

The moment that made Alford choke up the most was when he saw junior guard Micaela Kelly shed a tear.

 “(Guevara) is a great friend,” Alford said. “I learn a lot from her when I attend practice. I ask her opinion on decision making, but more important than that, she’s a great friend.”

As she heads into retirement, Guevara will have more time to play golf once her shoulder heals from rotator cuff surgery. She will also be able to knock out items on her bucket list.

Guevara’s most important item on the bucket list? Attending a Christmas concert in Saginaw that will include here dad playing baritone saxophone.

After 39 years of coaching, she will finally be able to see her dad play.