Former women's college basketball player shares memories of a different time in women's sports

Brian Taff Image
Thursday, June 23, 2022
Former player shares memories of a different time in women's sports
Former women's basketball player and coach Theresa Shank Grentz shares how Title IX impacted sports for women.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- In 1972, Theresa Shank Grentz helped lead what was then Immaculata College's women's basketball team to its first of three national championships.

"It was Divine Providence," said Grentz. "The way that came together - no recruiting, the coach walks in, there's no money."

Grentz says she knew her college teammates from playing high school basketball in the Philadelphia Catholic League. Back then, she played for Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, Delaware County.

She says they knew each other could play and they decided to keep on playing together at Immaculata College.

"We never looked back," said Grentz.

Grentz says she felt lucky to have the opportunity to play, as the expectation for women fifty years ago was different. She says as a woman, you had the choice to be a secretary, a teacher, a nurse, get married or go in the convent, but "that was really it." She says the expectation was not there for girls to play sports, or to coach.

She credits Immaculata's then-president, Sister Mary of Lourdes, with having the faith to send the girls' team to the '72 tournament.

"Her decision to send us changed my life," said Grentz.

The team went on to win the whole tournament and capture the championship with the guidance of their coach, Cathy Rush. They became known as the Mighty Macs and Grentz became a 3-time All-American.

Grentz played center, but says she enjoyed playing and did all kinds of things - whatever needed to be done.

"I had some hops then," she said of her playing days.

Alumnae Hall on Immaculata's campus now houses the original plaques and their upgraded trophies.

"We always had a cause. We are not losing. We are not going to disappoint each other and we were a Cinderella story," said Grentz.

In June of 1972, Title IX was passed, but Grentz says it made little difference for her as a player.

She says the law was in, but it was not enforced because the athletic directors were men.

"The women had to push it," said Grentz.

She did notice a difference in scholarships once she started her college coaching career - first at what was then St. Joseph's College and then at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

"Rutgers called and they hired the first full time women's basketball coach," she said.

She coached the Lady Knights at Rutgers to a national championship in 1982 and the women's Olympic team to a bronze medal in 1992.

While immersed in her coaching career, she also raised a family.

"That was really important to me," said Grentz.

Grentz went on to coach women's basketball at the University of Illinois and Lafayette College. She also ran clinics and camps as part of Grentz Elite Coaching.

In September, Grentz will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for her time as a player.

She says she feels "extremely grateful" to have been a part of that group at Immaculata at that particular time.

"We had a lot of fun," said Grentz.

Grentz is already a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. She boasts a career record of 681 wins and 360 losses during her 35 years as a head coach.

For more information:

Immaculata University Women's Basketball

Rutgers University Women's Basketball