Rumors about longtime Western coach Breezy Bishop's retiring started circulating just before the 1994-95 season.
The most talented class she ever had was in its senior year and a second consecutive Class 4A state title appeared imminent. The opportunity was there to go out on top.
Bishop admitted that retirement was on her mind. And when the Doves went 26-0 en route to the state championship that season, the speculation increased.
Two years later, Bishop has yet to trade in her clipboard and whistle for a gold watch. Instead, she is doing what she has done for the past 30 years: preparing her team for another successful season.
After building Western into one of the nation's most-respected programs with a resume that includes 400 victories, five No. 1 rankings in The Sun's final poll and five undefeated teams, what else is left for Bishop, 61, to prove?
The Doves are coming off the worst season in Bishop's tenure. After eight straight 20-win seasons and 12 consecutive years of being ranked in the top four, Western fell to 19-6 and dropped out of the Top 20 after an upset loss to Perry Hall in the Class 4A region final.
But redemption for last season isn't the motivation for Bishop.
"I don't care about wins and losses at this stage," said Bishop, who has a career record of 400-36. "I have a passion for this game, and at times it's overwhelming. I have an obsession with trying to help athletes receive scholarships.
"My mission in life is that every athlete that works hard on the court and in the classroom will have the opportunity to get a slice of the American pie."
Eighteen years ago, Bishop began compiling a booklet to market her players to colleges. It included the players' grade-point averages and test scores along with their basketball statistics. Since then, 71 of Bishop's players have received athletic or academic scholarships.
She handles the recruitment of most of her athletes, as well as some players from other teams who have asked for her assistance. Bishop even gives a seminar to help her athletes' parents handle the sometimes-overwhelming recruiting process.
And her dedication to the game and its athletes doesn't end there.
She runs recreation leagues in the fall and summer and is the president of Greater Baltimore Women's Basketball, Inc., which organizes mixers involving top high school teams from Maryland, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.
Bishop also is a member of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association All-American High School selection committee and serves on several other local girls basketball committees.
All of that is in addition to her teaching schedule at Western, which consists of four health classes and one physical education class.
"I've decided it's not time to sit on the porch and read a good book," said Bishop. "In fact, I'm so busy, I don't even have time to read a good book. I listen to books on audio tape as I ride to work. I find that very relaxing."
Despite the hectic schedule, it's obvious that Bishop's enthusiasm hasn't waned.
"I get excited about teaching school in general," she said. "I'm extremely excited this year because I'm teaching health for the first time. Health is about life, and it's so important to youngsters to help them make the right decisions. If they don't make the right choices, they won't live very long."
Bishop also seems somewhat rejuvenated by the youthful exuberance of the six freshmen and sophomores who comprise half of the team. The Doves have two seniors.
"It reminds me of the talent I had several years ago, when all of the talented freshmen came in and outplayed the upperclassmen," said Bishop, who is referring to her 1995 class, which included two-time Player of the Year Chanel Wright (North Carolina) and two-time All-Metro first-team player Kimberly Smith Georgetown).
Bishop, however, still hears the often-asked question: How many more years will she coach?
"I take it one year at a time," she said. "Each freshman that comes into Western now wants to know, 'Coach, will you be there for me when I graduate? Please don't go anywhere until I graduate.'
"As long as I have my health and strength, I will always be involved in basketball. It's my passion, and I will never quench my thirst."
Pub Date: 12/04/96