Women’s Basketball: Former star player returns in new role

The niece of a former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver finished her college basketball career at TCU as the career leader in eight different categories. Sandora Irvin, daughter of Michael Irvin, is the NCAA’s all-time leader in blocked shots and was the No. 3 overall selection in the 2005 WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury.

After leaving TCU as arguably the greatest women’s basketball player in school history, Sandora Irvin has returned to the team.

Three seasons after graduation, Irvin has returned to the Lady Frogs basketball team, filling the team’s vacant director of operations position in August.

“I jumped on it,” Irvin said. “I’d been going nonstop and I decided, ‘Hey let me try something new, learn the other side of basketball.'”

Head coach Jeff Mittie said he watched Irvin in training camp in May and started thinking about changing the role of the director of operations position and how Irvin might fit that change.

“I thought (about) what would happen if it might work,” Mittie said, “and I called her to say ‘Are you serious about possibly wanting to do this?'”

Her new position consists of a little bit of everything, Irvin said.

“My responsibilities so far have been travel,” Irvin said. “All the events concerning the Fast Break Club, getting out and talking, just mingling with everybody, which of course, I’m used to from playing.”

Irvin said her responsibilities regarding team play and practice are limited, but she is always there for the players to talk to.

“My office is always open for them, and any questions they have,” Irvin said.

Having someone like Irvin, who has experience in the WNBA and overseas, is a real advantage for the players, Mittie said.

“You’ve got somebody right here who you can utilize as a resource to talk about those things,” Mittie said. “She can be a mentor off the court.”

The age gap between Irvin and the Lady Frogs is only a few years, and she said she’s probably the most popular member of the staff because of it.

“I can relate to them,” Irvin said. “I understand where they’re coming from on a lot of things, but I know them as well, so I know when they’re trying to scheme. I tell them, ‘Hey don’t think I’m you’re favorite because if I need to run you I will.'”

Irvin’s return to TCU does not mean the end of her pro career, as she said she plans to continue in the WNBA for the San Antonio Silver Stars as soon as the new season starts in April.

The WNBA season runs from April through August or October, Irvin said.

“It’s excellent timing, so I’m still playing, and I’m going back to San Antonio in April,” Irvin said.

Mittie said he knew Irvin would still be playing professionally when he hired her, but had no problems with it.

“We knew what we were getting going in,” Mittie said. “We knew this was going to be a seven to eight month position, and then she would go off to the WNBA in the summer. We would just make adjustments with those things as a staff.”

Playing basketball professionally has been a great experience, Irvin said.

Meeting basketball heroes, traveling the world and being able to always do what she loves are a few things that make the WNBA so great, Irvin said.

“I met Sheryl Swoopes,” Irvin said. “I’ve been to Turkey and Greece, and traveling all over the country for free.”

Irvin has not only returned as director of operations, but also as a student. Irvin is currently working on a Master of Liberal Arts.

Irvin graduated with a business operations and marketing degree, which she said has really helped prepare her for the responsibilities that accompany the director of operations position.

“It’s time to book flights, and hotels, and set up appearances, and marketing situations,” Irvin said. “I have that experience from courses I took at TCU.”

With a first person look at the other side of the basketball world, Irvin said coaching is something that is growing into more of a possibility for her.

“Before I came here, I never wanted to coach,” Irvin said. “I said, ‘I’m not dealing with myself.’ After being here and seeing coach Mittie and dealing with the girls, it’s not bad at all.”

Coaching is working its way into Irvin’s future plans, who said she is planning on changing her Master of Liberal Arts degree to education, with the hopes of eventually leading a high school team.

Mittie said he can see Irvin eventually becoming a basketball coach.

“She still has her basketball career going,” Mittie said. “She’s getting to see the administrative side of that, and I could see her doing both.”

Irvin said her college accolades and records are still something she is in awe of.

“Those were some big accomplishments and things I set out to do, and to accomplish them is still an overwhelming feeling,” Irvin said.

As for the rest of the Lady Frogs, they all want a piece of the Irvin records.

“They had questions that they had to say, and for almost every question I was the answer,” Irvin said. “They were giving me a hard time like, ‘Dang, let somebody else get a record.’