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Burnett resigns at Southwest Missouri
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Cheryl Burnett, the winningest coach in the history of Southwest Missouri State women's basketball, is leaving after 15 seasons, the university announced Monday.
Burnett, who had a career record of 319-136, said she plans to look for another job.
"I have no jobs and no interviews at this time. I'm stepping out on faith," she said.
Burnett, who coached WNBA standout Jackie Stiles, guided the Lady Bears to two NCAA Final Four appearances, including one in 2001. Southwest Missouri finished 16-13 last year and made its first appearance in the Women's N.I.T. Burnett came to Springfield after two years as assistant coach at the University of Illinois.
Burnett said she decided last Wednesday that she would leave Southwest Missouri, then told her family on Sunday and the team on Monday.
"It was a decision made on principles and prayer and it was a professional decision," she said. "This past year has been a year of blessings with a wonderful group of young women. Coaching is what I love and continues to be my passion. I've always thought I'd leave SMS for a job at another university."
University president John Keiser thanked Burnett for helping "establish the Lady Bears as one of the premier women's basketball programs in the country."
A native of Centralia, Mo., Burnett played basketball at the University of Kansas, where she was a four-year starter for the Jayhawks. She was also the first woman to receive a full athletic scholarship at Kansas and was named to the Big Eight Conference all-tournament squad in 1977.
Burnett starred in basketball at Centralia High, earning All-America and all-state honors as a senior. She was a two-time all-district and all-conference selection and was voted her high school's outstanding female senior and the best female athlete in 1976.
Athletics director Bill Rowe said a national search would begin immediately to find Burnett's replacement.
"We hope for nothing but the best for Cheryl, and we will be anxiously watching to see where she goes following the decision she has announced today," Rowe said.