LUBBOCK - Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp has known for the past couple of years that she was close to calling it quits.
On Friday, the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame coach who won an NCAA title at Tech and turned the school into a perennial national power, made it official - she'll resign at the end of the season.
"It's not something that you do very easily, obviously," the 53-year-old Sharp said. "When you do something for 24 years, you have to be sure that it's time to take the next step."
Texas A&M women's coach Gary Blair praised the job Sharp has done, and thought it was inappropriate to speculate who might replace her.
Blair, who graduated from Tech, said he expects to finish his career at A&M. He said he would owe it to his alma mater to listen, but "that doesn't mean I have to talk," and if they'd want his advice, he'd be honored, but he said Tech athletic director Gerald Myers and Sharp are more than qualified to find a replacement.
"This time should all be about Marsha," Blair said, "and what she's done and meant for the game."
Sharp's season has been marked by health problems. She told administrators in October that this would be her final season. And although a heart problem in January was "significant enough to get my attention," Sharp said her health is fine, and she's "good to go."
Another concern is Tech's fall out of the Top 25 for the first time in more than a decade.
During 24 seasons in Lubbock, Sharp has taken Tech to 16 straight NCAA appearances, reaching the Elite Eight four times and the Sweet 16 seven times. The Lady Raiders won the national title in 1993, when Sheryl Swoopes led them to a 31-3 record.
Inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003, Sharp hasn't had a losing season. This year could be different, though. Tech (13-12, 8-6 Big 12) has two conference games remaining before the Big 12 tournament in Dallas, and Sharp's final home game will be Wednesday against No. 9 Oklahoma.
She is currently 570-187 overall at Texas Tech.
"She's been a leader in women's basketball for a long time," Myers said. "It's a close to a great era."
Myers said the school will begin a national search to replace Sharp after the season, but didn't rule out current assistants. Sharp will continue to work with the school as associate athletic director for special projects.
Sharp said she would stay in Lubbock, and wouldn't rule out returning to coach a national or Olympic team.
Blair said Sharp was one of the first to show the women's game could gain widespread appeal and be marketed.
"She built a dynasty at Texas Tech and did it with class, integrity and teams that were well schooled on fundamentals," he said. "Good ladies can finish first."
Sharp said telling her players Friday was "one of the hardest" things she's done in a long time.
"They're struggling just a little bit," she said. "There was some emotion from my side, too."
Some players said they learned about Sharp's departure from watching television.
"It's kind of crazy when everyone is calling you saying 'What's happening?' and you have no idea," said Chesley Dabbs, who's been out for the season after knee surgery. "It's definitely going to take a toll on us the next couple of games."
Tech dropped out of the Top 25 in early December after 248 consecutive weeks beginning Jan. 12, 1992.
On Jan. 18, Sharp was taken to a hospital in Norman after suffering nausea and shortness of breath while participating in a short game-day shooting session before the Lady Raiders lost to Oklahoma.
Eight days later, she had an angiogram after tests suggested she had blockage in a coronary artery. The angiogram found no problem with the arteries or any heart damage.