McKeown's Task Is Close at Hand

Coach Joe McKeown, with sophomore guard Jazmine Adair, will face his best friend in the coaching business, Texas A&M's Gary Blair.
Coach Joe McKeown, with sophomore guard Jazmine Adair, will face his best friend in the coaching business, Texas A&M's Gary Blair. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
By Steven Herbert
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, March 19, 2007

LOS ANGELES, March 18 -- Trying to advance past the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997, the George Washington women's basketball team will face a different type of challenge Monday, when it takes on fourth-seeded Texas A&M at Southern California's Galen Center.

Instead of facing a No. 1 or No. 2 seed like they have in each of their last six second-round games, the fifth-seeded Colonials (27-3) find themselves facing a No. 4 seed directed by Coach Joe McKeown's best friend in the business, Gary Blair.

"He's helped me coach my team all year, and I help him," said McKeown, who also took credit for helping Blair's Arkansas team reach the Final Four in 1998. "This is probably the one coaching matchup you don't want because we know so much about each other."

McKeown and Blair have known each other since the early 1980s, when McKeown was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Oklahoma and Blair was an assistant coach at fabled Louisiana Tech. Blair attended McKeown's 50th birthday party last year and stays at McKeown's home when he is in the Washington area. The two attended the Masters after last year's Final Four.

"It's going to be fun, but it's still about George Washington and Texas A&M," Blair said. "The girls on the court are going to decide it, not us coaches. If the coaches are going to decide anything, we're going to decide it on the golf course."

The two have faced each other twice on the court since McKeown became the Colonials coach in 1989, with George Washington defeating Blair's Arkansas teams in the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons.

Texas A&M (25-6) shared the Big 12 regular season championship with Oklahoma, the first time the Aggies had won a conference title, and lost to Iowa State, 57-51, in the conference tournament March 8.

"We know we're going to run pressure [defense], we know he's going to play matchup [zone] to some extent, but we also know he's going to play man-to-man," Blair said. "He's also very capable of pressing us. He's good in transition. We're good in transition."

To McKeown, keys include containing guard A'Quonesia Franklin and forward Danielle Gant, who made 8 of 10 shots, scored 20 of her 24 points against Texas-Arlington in the second half and had a team-high 14 rebounds.

"Gant was great inside," McKeown said. "We've got to make sure she doesn't post us up like she did to Arlington. We have a little more size than UTA did. They just have so many people who can hurt you, people who can pass and shoot."

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