'It's time': Legendary CMU women's basketball coach Sue Guevara announces surprise retirement

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Central Michigan head coach Sue Guevara questions a call.

She's talked eagerly in recent years, about retiring to a lakeside cottage. And late in the spring, she took an extended vacation to Ireland.

Now, Sue Guevara will be free to relax with a cocktail on the back patio or travel anywhere she wants, anytime she pleases.

Guevara, who built Central Michigan women's basketball into a powerhouse mid-major program, told the team Friday morning that she is retiring, effective immediately. Her associate head coach, Heather Oesterle, will rise to head coach.

The university held a Friday afternoon press conference in Mount Pleasant.

"It's bittersweet," athletic director Michael Alford told The News on Friday, moments after the team meeting. "She's a legend.

"But the program is in a great spot."

Alford called the team meeting "very emotional."

Guevara has been talking about retirement for several weeks, and she finally made it official with Alford on Tuesday. Just over a year ago, she told The News she had looming plans to retire.

"I lied," she quipped to The News on Friday.

Guevara, 65, a native of Saginaw, was head coach at Central Michigan for 12 seasons, taking a team from 6-23 her first season to eventually 30-5 and the program's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.

She led the Chippewas to five Mid-American Conference championships in the last six seasons, and three NCAA Tournament appearances in all. Two of those NCAA appearances came in the last two seasons.

“It is time,” Guevara said in a statement. “I have been leaning this way since the end of the season but wanted to separate myself from it a little bit to see if I felt the same way, and I do. I love Central Michigan so much — everything about it. When I came in 2007, this place opened its collective arms to me and gave me the support and love needed to build this program. Hopefully, I did CMU proud because I gave it everything I had over the past 12 years and loved every second of it."

Guevara was 231-156 at Central Michigan, the winningest coach in program history and fifth all-time in the MAC.

Prior to arriving at Central Michigan, Guevara had a seven-year run as head coach at Michigan, which included three NCAA Tournament appearances.

Between head-coaching jobs, she was an assistant coach at Auburn. She also had assistant jobs at Michigan State, Ball State, Ohio State and Saginaw Valley State.

She also coached softball at Saginaw Valley State, her alma mater.

Central Michigan was set to lose two of the best players in program history, Presley Hudson and Reyna Frost, who have graduated and are playing in Europe. But Guevara was excited about the upcoming recruiting class, and believes the program is on solid footing moving forward.

Oesterle has spent eight seasons on Guevara's staff at Central Michigan, and has been a lead recruiter during that time. She played at Michigan under Guevara.

“This is a great honor and I couldn’t be more excited to lead this program,” Oesterle said in a statement. “One of the most important things I learned from Coach Guevara is that it takes everyone working together to reach the high goals we have, and I am confident that everyone associated with this program will continue to do that."

Guevara signed a new, five-year contract in the spring of 2018, following the team's surprising Sweet 16 run. It paid her a base salary of $290,000, a 19.3-percent raise from her previous contract, third-largest among Division I women's coaches in the state. She also earned tens of thousands in bonuses over the last several seasons.

This is the second major retirement in recent weeks for Central Michigan. Legendary softball coach Margo Jonker retired in May after 40 years on the job.

Stay tuned to detroitnews.com for more on this developing story.


Twitter: @tonypaul1984