Texas Tech took down Michigan State 61-51 to reach the 2019 Final Four championship game vs. Virginia in Minneapolis. Compared to football, basketball mattered as much in Lubbock, Texas, as it does compared to hockey in Red Deer, Alberta.
Bobby Knight couldn’t fill the arena more than a couple of games per winter in Lubbock. So, on the Sunday before the championship game, I went to a few Minneapolis bars in search of Tech hoops fans.
There were four younger ones having a lunch at the Loon. Mia Castaneda, a Tech junior, was the lone woman — making the 1,135-mile drive from Lubbock with two cousins and a friend.
Castaneda was a backup guard on the women’s team. I asked how the season had gone with coach Marlene Stollings, in her first Tech year after being hired from Minnesota.
The Castaneda quote appearing in the Star Tribune was: “I’ll be transferring. I’m one of seven transferring.”
There were harsher off-the-record comments, but publicly blasting a coach wasn’t going to help Castaneda find a place to play. She wound up at Washburn, a Division II school in Kansas.
Not a loss of a great player for Stollings, obviously, but a hometown kid feeling mistreated emotionally and transferring — just another indicator as to how so many behind-the-scenes detractors emerged in her four Gophers seasons.
Her team was 24-9 in 2017-18, yet athletic director Mark Coyle was quick to make no counteroffer when Stollings informed she had a better deal on the table from Tech.
The number of transfers after Stollings’ first Tech season turned out to be eight — not seven — and the total was 12 of 21 in two years. She was fired Thursday after a USA Today report detailing her hostile relationship with numerous players.
A major USA Today source was Castaneda, commenting: “It was just a feeling of fear, anxiety and depression. … They were breaking people.”
Castaneda wasn’t that extensive 16 months earlier, but I do recall her summation of a season with Stollings:
“It was terrible.’’
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