Georgia's Jeff Wallace retires after 38 years as women's head coach for the Bulldogs
After the University of Georgia women made a 15th trip to the NCAA semifinals under his leadership, head coach Jeff Wallace's 38-year tenure at the helm of the Bulldogs' program has come to a close.
Wallace, who announced earlier this month his plans to retire following the season, led Georgia to six national championships during his legendary career along with 20 SEC titles. He was named National Coach of the Year four times and compiled an overall record of 818-199 (.804).
"This team is very special," Wallace said after a 4-0 semifinal defeat to top seed North Carolina at the USTA National Campus in Orlando.
"When it's your last year to coach, you want to go out with a special group. The thing I'll think back to when remembering this team is just how much heart they played with. Just the heart they brought to the courts each day and the fight they brought, the determination. You don't finish first [ITA Indoors], second [SEC tournament] or third [NCAAs] in the three biggest tournaments without them bringing that energy to everything that we're doing. I'm really proud of this team and really excited.
"When you coach 38 teams, all 38 teams are different in their own unique way. I'm very proud. We came here thinking, 'Hey, we can win this thing.' That was in our mind. We didn't come here and think, 'Let's just get to this round.' We came here to win this thing. That was our mission, that was our goal. Unfortunately, we didn't accomplish it, but it wasn't from lack of belief, lack of work, lack of desire, lack of heart or anything like that."
After looking back on his career, Wallace began to look forward to enjoying his retirement with his family.
"For me, this is it. I'm going to ride off into the sunset," he said. "It's kind of appropriate that my wife is sitting in the room back there. I'll get to spend the rest of my life with her—how exciting is that? I've got two great kids and four great grandkids."
The conclusion of Wallace's career coincides with the end of Georgia grad student Meg Kowalksi's time with the Bulldogs after five seasons. The Chicago resident, who won the opening set against UNC in an unfinished No. 6 singles match, reflected on her coach's career and the opportunity to be a part of his final years leading the program.
"Jeff is a 'DGD,' a Darn Good ‘Dog," she said, repeating a term Wallace used to describe her. "It's an honor to play on these courts with him in his last match. I know he's going to be a legend and people are going to be talking about him for many, many years to come."
Wallace will be succeeded by associate head coach Drake Bernstein, who has spent 11 years with the Georgia program.
"Drake and Jeff mean the world to me," Kowalski said. "It's been the best five years of my life... I've definitely excelled on the court and become a better player, but walking out these doors today, I know I am a better person and it's because of my incredible mentors and the family I've gotten at UGA."