Mercer’s Susie Gardner reacts to Landers’ retirement
Landers took over a program in 1979 that had gone 37-85 in its first six seasons. Since then, the Lady Bulldogs have won 862 games and have made it to 20 Sweet 16s, 11 Elite Eights and five Final Fours.
Susie Gardner, head women’s coach at Mercer, played for Landers in the 1980s and was on two of his Final Four teams.
“I was really shocked to hear the news,” she said. “All the former players at Georgia got an e-mail from Coach Landers, and he was joking around in it, and then the emotion was just overwhelming for me. I had to go outside and kind of walk around and gather my thoughts. Then I went on the Georgia website and read it for sure. I don’t think it’s sunk in quite yet.”
Gardner fought back tears while talking about the kind of man Landers is.
“Not only him as a coach, I mean I’ve been to his pond this past fall and went fishing for bass in his pond,” she says. “And he showed me his log cabin he built from hand. I have a unique relationship with him, as do all players. He’s that guy. He’s there for you. He’ll text you when you have a big win. He’ll call you to see if you’re OK. He’s just a great person.”
Gardner, who coached against Landers and beat him a few times, which she called “crazy,” says she texted him after she got the news to tell him she loves him. She was looking forward to hearing back.
The Lady Bulldogs finished the season 19-12, falling to Tennessee 75-41 in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.