COLUMN: Newly retired coach Sue Guevara means everything

Head coach Sue Guevara stands for the national anthem on Nov. 8 at McGuirk Arena.

When you hear the name Sue Guevara, it just means more.

Actually, it means everything.

Following each Central Michigan women's basketball home game, the longtime coach always found herself with a microphone in her hand. Fans followed with a chant: "SUEEEEEE!"

Game after game, she addressed the crowd, thanking them for supporting the Chippewas.

That's Sue Guevara.

Guevara announced her retirement July 12, ending her 12-year tenure as coach of the Chippewas with a 231-156 record. She exits as the winningest head coach in program history and ranks fifth all-time in the Mid-American Conference.

"It takes a village," Guevara said in her final press conference. "In my 39 years, this is the best village I've ever been a member of. Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

Her legacy is more than just getting in front of fans; rather, it has everything to do with turning the women's basketball program in a 180-degree turn. Guevara's time at Central was special because of the way she carried herself and conducted her business.

Guevara, 65, started at CMU in the 2007-08 season, and the team finished 6-23 overall. By the time her fourth year at the helm came along, the Chippewas were 20-11 overall and made the WNIT. Before anyone knew it, Guevara had CMU dancing into the NCAA Tournament in 2013, 2018 and 2019.

Guevara put CMU women's basketball on a national stage, and she did it with an unprecedented amount of respect and love for the game.

Players, administrators, other NCAA coaches and fans adored Guevara because of the way she acted. Even though her somewhat edgy personality challenged the status quo, she always took the time to listen. For that, people were drawn to her.

Guevara also hated losing, and maybe more than any coach I've ever covered at CMU as a reporter. Where other coaches tried to talk their way out of a defeat, Guevara owned all of her losses. She admitted when she made a mistake. She wasn't afraid to hold her players accountable, either. 

Deep down, after a loss, she hated every second of those post-game press conferences. That's what helped make her so successful. Sitting in that back room with a microphone pressed to her lips, Guevara addressed members of the media by name and extended an open invitation to her office for further conversation. For the reporters, that meant something a little extra special as a common ground for mutual respect.

"Is there anyone that doesn't like to hear their name," Guevara said. "We have a relationship. I think it's important to have a good relationship with the media."

She also went out of her way for others as much as possible. Where some coaches would head straight to the locker room, Guevara – after addressing the crowd – made her way to well-known fans that filled McGuirk Arena, even after a loss. She'd chat with them, and it was much more than just, "Hey! Thanks for coming out." 

You see, Guevara made it a point to extend the conversation. She turned fans into friends. After 12 years of doing that, it's safe to say she's developed many companions. 

"We have a great atmosphere for games, and that's because of the community and fans," Guevara said. "People want to see us. We aren't going to miss a beat, and the fans aren't going to miss a beat. I've been a lot of different places. I've been around the block. This community has been outstanding. It's the best I've been at."

Guevara went out on her own terms. Nobody asked her to leave or even suggested it. At 65 years old with one year remaining on her contract, Guevara said she decided to step aside because she was no longer able to give 100% to the program. 

For that, she should be respected.

Throughout the last nine years, the person sitting next to Guevara was Heather Oesterle, who is set to take over as the next women's basketball coach.

If there's anyone that can continue to carry what Guevara brought to the program for 12 years, it's Oesterle – hard working, respectful and generous.

"(Heather) is like a daughter to me," Guevara told reporters back in 2016. "If I walk across the street and get hit by a bus, the program's in great shape."

Guevara deserves every bit of her retirement – for golf, reading, traveling, watching basketball from the stands at McGuirk Arena or whatever else she wants to do with her newfound free time.

So, with that being said, let the Oesterle era of CMU women's basketball begin.

"It's hard to replace a legend," Oesterle said while looking at Guevara. "I will do my best to make you proud."