CONCORD -- After 22 years, Margaret Gartner is stepping down as head coach of the Carondelet High basketball program she built into a Northern California power.
Gartner, who compiled a career record of 530-133 and guided the Cougars to the 2004 Division II state championship, said she wanted more time to focus on her family and had decided before the season started that this one would be her last.
She kept her decision a closely-guarded secret until informing her coaching staff in January and her players on Tuesday.
"I'd think about it every year," Gartner said.
"The program is my baby but that's not a reason to keep doing something. It's just time."
Gartner's teams were especially dominant in the last 15 years. The Cougars reached the state finals four times and won 10 North Coast Section championships, including the last three in Division II.
She sent numerous players on to college careers, including Jayne Appel, who was an All-American at Stanford and now plays in the WNBA.
This year's team featured Natalie Romeo, a Nebraska signee and the program's No. 2 all-time scorer behind Appel.
"I feel really bad for the juniors," Gartner said. "I'm not leaving because I think there's nothing left in the cupboard. It's hard because next year's team is going to be special. It'd be kind of a fun year to coach because everyone thinks we're not going to be as good. Those are my favorite years to coach."
Gartner is the fourth Bay Area girls coach to reach 500 wins, a milestone she accomplished near the end of the 2012-2013 season.
The Cougars went 28-4 in her last year and her final game ended up being a 92-87 loss to Miramonte in the Northern California Open Division semifinals on March 18.
"It's not really all about the games," she said. "It's the people, the relationships. I think that's what I'm going to miss the most."
Gartner, a second-grade teacher in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, also coached Carondelet's junior varsity program for four years. She got her coaching career started 27 years ago with the junior varsity team at her alma mater, Ygnacio Valley.
Carondelet is currently accepting applicants for its next head coach.