Georgia Bulldogs vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Georgia head coach Andy Landers disputes a call with the referee during an NCAA basketball game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide in Athens, Ga., on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. (Photo/Joshua L. Jones

Andy Landers doesn’t like losing.

What the Lady Dogs basketball team head coach dislikes even more, though, is not being able to figure out how to stop losing. Landers announced his retirement after 36 years at the Georgia program Monday afternoon, and he said his team’s inability to win lately was the reason.

“It's been difficult for me the last couple of years to be trying to figure out what we need to do to win a four seed in the SEC,” Landers said. “After we played in the Southeastern Conference tournament [on March 6] and came back, it was apparent to me that we weren't what we built this thing to do, and that responsibility is mine.”

Georgia went 39-24 the last two seasons. The Lady Dogs won their first games of the conference tournament in each year before being eliminated the next time out.

An NCAA tournament run ended before it could get started last season, as Georgia fell to St. Joseph’s in the first round. The Lady Dogs missed the tournament entirely this season.

That isn’t normal for a program that’s gone to the Sweet 16 20 times, the Elite Eight 11 times and the Final Four five times under Landers, the only full-time head coach in Georgia history.

Landers said he told every athletic director he’s worked for that they wouldn’t have to force him to leave.

“I told coach [Vince] Dooley a long time ago, I told Damon [Evans], I told Greg [McGarity], they wouldn't have to tell me, I'd know,” he said.

After examining the last two seasons, Landers said he knew.

“Knowing what's right most of the time for most people is easy,” he said. “Executing what's right, now that's difficult. I thought about it for a week, did what most people would try to do – tried to spin it – it wouldn't spin. So that brings me to this.”

Not only will Landers leave a storied career, one in which he won 944 games overall with over 850 of them at Georgia, behind, he’ll also leave his players.

Landers met with them Monday right as his retirement was announced publicly. Senior forward Krista Donald said the emotions permeating throughout the room were “shock, devastation, sadness, you name it.”

Donald said she’s happy Landers stayed at Georgia her entire career.

“I'm just glad he stayed for my tenure,” Donald said. “I don't know what I would've done, because I came here because of him and his legacy. It's been great playing for him. He's been here 36 years, and he's the type of coach you cherish.”

Landers received a contract extension back in 2013 that had him signed through the 2017 season, so his retirement was mostly unexpected.

Freshman forward Mackenzie Engram said she thought so, at least.

“It caught me completely off-guard,” Engram said. “When he came in, he said that he had some exciting news, so my heart was beating that we got a bid from the tournament, and then he told me and I was devastated. Still am, and will be, for a while.

It wasn’t just Landers’ current players who were surprised by his decision, though.

Four-time Olympic Gold Medalist and former Lady Dog great Teresa Edwards said she couldn’t believe he’d retired.

“I really can't conceptualize this to be honest with you,” Edwards said. “It's going to take a little time. It's almost unfair I didn't get a chance to say 'No, coach. Come on…don't do it.'"

Despite his vast experience and knowledge of the game, Landers wouldn’t offer an opinion of who should take his place.

He said he’d leave that to McGarity and former Lady Dog Carla Williams, Georgia’s executive associate athletic director.

“If they're smart enough to keep me around for 36 years, they're smart enough to make the right decisions,” Landers said.

McGarity said there hadn’t been any action in terms of replacing Landers. He said there would be a search, led by Williams, and then an announcement once a deal is made.

The four-time National Coach of the Year took a moment to thank the Lady Dogs’ fans, saying many of them have been dedicated for years.

“They've been terrific,” Landers said. “Some of the people that were at every game this year, some of them were at every game 25 years ago. That type of loyalty isn't something that any of us should take for granted. It's been very, very much appreciated.”

In his career, Landers did just about anything a head coach can do. He led Georgia to the SEC tournament championship seven times and coached a plethora of great players to go along with all those NCAA tournament runs.

The only thing he didn’t do was win the national title.

“In the beginning, there was a dream to create a program that would compete at the highest level,” Landers said. “We've done that. The only thing we didn't get done was win one of those five Final Fours.”

Landers isn’t sure what the future holds for him. The 62-year-old said he still has a lot of energy, and said, in his typical fashion, that he’d have to stay busy.

“I haven't crossed that road yet,” Landers said. “My yard will probably look better than anybody's in the neighborhood, at least until I get bored with it.”​