When the University of Memphis needed to find a coach following Joye-Lee McNelis' departure in May, the Lady Tigers looked to their past to offer a talented young former assistant her first head coaching job. Blair Savage took over the Lady Tiger basketball program on June 10th and immediately began assembling a staff and a recruiting plan for the upcoming July evaluation season for the 2005-06 recruiting class.
Savage served as an assistant to McNelis for nine years. She left the staff following the 2002-03 season when her husband, Bill, accepted the position of associate athletic director at Middle Tennessee.
In 2003-04, Savage served as an assistant coach at Belmont University, and helped lead the Bruins to its first-ever Atlantic Sun regular season title. Savage's work with the Bruins' post players helped land forward Brandi Miller on the All-Atlantic Sun team and rookie center Destri Bockey on the A-Sun All-Freshman squad. The Bruins finished the season with a 16-12 overall record; 14-6 in the A-Sun.
Just three weeks after getting hired at Memphis, Savage was on the recruiting trail. Her first task was to convince Associate Head Coach Tom Cross to stay in Memphis and to bring Assistant Coach Angela Crosby on board from UT-Chattanooga. That trio hit the recruiting trail, devising a strategy for their first signing class, which will come in November of 2004.
"My recruiting strategy is to keep all the Memphis talent at home. I think whether they're `05, `06, `07, `10, whatever year they are, that's our first priority, keeping those kids at home. That's gonna be tough initially this first year because they haven't seen us win yet, but once we start winning, they'll be eager to jump on board. "
Savage also tapped the WNBA ranks to round out her coaching staff with the addition of Helen Darling from the Minnesota Lynx to the Lady Tiger staff.
"I am excited that Blair Savage-Lansden has accepted the position of head basketball coach for our Lady Tiger program," said Athletic Director R.C. Johnson. "She was highly involved in every aspect of Lady Tiger Basketball as a member of the previous staff, and has gained invaluable experience over her 10 years as an assistant coach.
"I feel confident that we have hired one of the dynamic young coaches in women's college basketball, and I am certain that we will see even greater successes for our program under Coach Savage's direction," added Johnson.
While at Memphis, Savage served as recruiting coordinator and handled the on-the-floor coaching duties of the guards and posts. She was the liaison of the mentoring program and the "Tracking the Lady Tigers" program. She also monitored the academic status of the student-athletes, as well as scouting.
A native of Gravette, Ark., Savage's stint at the U of M began during the 1994-95 season when she joined the staff as the Lady Tigers' restricted earnings coach. She served in that capacity for two seasons, before being named a full-time assistant in 1996-97. Savage completed her master's degree at The University of Memphis in sports administration in 1996.
"I am absolutely elated to be back at the University of Memphis," said Savage. "I have learned a lot over the years as an assistant, and I am truly grateful that R.C. Johnson and Lynn Parkes are presenting me this opportunity."
Before arriving on the University of Memphis campus, Savage was a standout on the hardwood for the University of Arkansas. She finished her career in Fayetteville as the Lady Razorbacks' 10th all-time leading scorer with 1,072 points scored. She currently ranks 20th all-time in points scored, 3rd all-time in rebounds (771) and 13th in assists. In 2000-01, she was named to Arkansas' Lady Razorback Silver Anniversary team.
While at Arkansas, under coach John Sutherland, Savage also set a couple of game records, grabbing 14 rebounds in a half and 12 offensive rebounds in a game, both against Arkansas rival Oklahoma during her freshman season.
Savage completed her career with the Lady Razorbacks with a 9.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game average. A 6-1 post player, she shot over 50 percent in all four seasons with the Lady Razorbacks.
In 1993, Savage was selected as the NCAA Woman of the Year for the state of Arkansas, and also received the NCAA/Entergy Winning for Life postgraduate scholarship. She earned her degree in secondary education mathematics from the University of Arkansas in 1994, while serving as a student assistant coach with the Lady Razorbacks.
Savage is married to Bill Lansden who is the Associate Athletic Director for Development at the University of Memphis.