College Basketball is a coach-driven sport. Now any coach will tell you that a coach is only as good as the players on the team. But, of course, in college basketball it is the coach who picks the players for the team. So as we begin another season of hoops at UTA we look to the coaches with hope and pride.
One is the product of a military family who learned respect and discipline at home. The other’s father was a coach, and in this case the apples don’t fall far from the tree.
Copperas Cove, Texas, is only a couple of hours south of Arlington, and yet it looks a lot different. There are hills there, big hills that almost look like mountains. Where there are mountains, there are valleys, and where there are valleys there are echoes. Echoing through the valleys of this proud military town you might still hear the name Shereka Wright.
The second-year head coach of the Mavericks Women’s basketball team put the Cove on the map just two decades ago. In 2000 she was named USA Today Player of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year. She led her team to a 118-10 record in four years and still holds the record for points (3269), rebounds (1148) and blocks (220). She was a three time All American at Purdue and then played in the WNBA before injuries sent her to coaching.
She started her coaching career in the cradle of women’s basketball coaches, Lubbock. She was an assistant coach on the Red Raiders staff for seven seasons. During stops at Alabama and Vanderbilt she established herself as a great recruiter and was tabbed to bring her wealth of experience and success to Arlington.
On the UTA women’s basketball page there is a video: “Shereka Wright hometown Visit.” Do yourself a favor and watch it. The trip to “the Cove” includes a stop at her Junior High Gym, where the Bullpups never lost a game and interviews with the husband/wife team that were her Junior High and High School coaches.
Sammey Townsend remembers those junior high years fondly. “No drama ever,” Townsend recalls. “The best parents, and I’ve already told you that coaching a military kid is one of my favorite experiences.”
Who wouldn’t like coaching children from military families? Especially when they help you to a 38-0 record, like Shereka did in her eighth grade year.
Her family background paid dividends when she played high school ball for Skip Townsend, too. As mentioned, her teams were 118-10 over her career.
The hills around Cleburne, Texas, aren’t nearly as big as those in Copperas Cove. No one would confuse them with mountains. There are no valleys to speak of, but this small Texas town proudly produced the other new coach at UTA. Well, he is new to the head coaching role.
Greg Young has been on the bench for the Mavs for over a decade as an assistant to two previous head coaches. Like Shereka, Greg learned discipline and respect for his craft at home. His dad was a longtime coach. And following in his footsteps was a given.
After excelling in three sports at Cleburne, Greg got his first coaching opportunity in a familiar place. At Cleburne high school. Jeff Cody hired him as an assistant in 1990. Cody told the Cleburne Times Review that Greg was like family and that he was elated that Young got this opportunity.
“I’m thrilled for him and his parents,” Cody told the Times-review. “His daddy was a longtime coach, and they’re still so close. He’ll do a great job because he’s a great coach.”
UTA Athletic Director Jim Baker has filled the two highest profile positions at the University in the past 18 months. His choices are logical and wise. Both coaches worked hard for the opportunity, both coaches learned their work ethic at home, both homes were in Texas.
Look for both to have great success recruiting in this talent-rich state. Both have a history of recruiting great players.
So, if a coach really is “only as good as the players,” then look for both to have great success in Arlington.