During her short 2-year tenure, there have been many changes in the women's program at Kentucky, not all of which have been reflected in the win column but may indicatethat the program is headed in the right direction. Attendance has dramatically increased, as DeMoss was greeted by over 4000 fans for her first game as head coach. By the end of her first season, UK had sold nearly 3000 season tickets. By the beginning of the second season, over 4000 had been sold.
Not all of the positive changes were in the stands. UK landed the #6 recruiting class in the nation. No longer was UK suffering embarrassing, blowout losses. In addition, early in her second season, UK would knock off Wake Forest and then take down #17 and SEC-power Georgia. By the end of her second season, DeMoss was able to guide the program to its first winning record since the '99-00 season, and its first post-season play since '98-99, with the ‘Cats falling in double OT to West Virginia in the WNIT semi-finals.
Although there are steps in the right direction, Demoss isn't finished. Erin Childress visited with Coach Demoss and talked about her past, the present, and where the head coach sees the future of UK basketball.
KSR: You were highly sought after by many different programs. What sold you on coming to UK and becoming the head coach here?
MD: From the outside looking in, you always wondered why Kentucky can't get back to where they were in the early 80s because it is a ‘basketball' school. When you think of Kentucky, that's one of the first things you think about is basketball. It's in a great location as far as recruiting is concerned. You didn't know if maybe the commitment wasn't there. All of the pieces have to be in place to have a good program and sometimes there may be a missing piece here and there, but I felt like if all of the pieces were together and a strong commitment was made, then I felt like it had a world of potential to be a very strong and solid program. After I talked to Mitch Barnhart and he assured me that he wanted a women's program and that he was willing to step to the plate and put the money there and I could hire some good people, I felt like we could get it done here.
KSR: How much has the fan support meant to you and the program?
MD: It's unbelievable. It's meant a lot. It's meant a lot to me, my staff, and the players. They feed off that. When you're down and you're not winning as many as you would like to win and you come out and you see 6000 people sitting in the stands cheering for you, pulling for you, that gives you a little extra boost.
KSR: You have stated several times that you thought if you turned the program around, the support would come. Do you feel any added pressure to win now with your team being embraced so quickly by the fans?
MD: Every time I come out and see the fans that come out, I want our team to play well and they're one of the reasons I would like for them to play well because like I tell my players, "They don't have to be here, they choose to be here. There are a lot of other things they could be doing but they've taken their time to come watch you play." For them, I don't know if its added pressure, but its something that I want to do really badly is to put a product on the floor that they can continue to follow and really get excited about.
KSR: Michigan State and Baylor both built their programs in five years. Do you have a timeline or plan for when you expect to see the program competing consistently in the SEC and nationally?
MD:: I would certainly like to see it within five years. Now, as you know, you've got to get some breaks a long the way and kind of have everything fall into place. You never know when injury is going to hit or a kid is going to make a bad decision.
KSR: As you put the pieces of the puzzle together and when everything finally comes together, what kind of team do you envision? What is the trademark style?
MD: I'd love first of all to have a really hard-nosed, tough competing team. A team that you know every night will come out and compete and be physical. As far as style of play, I like an up-and-down game. I like a fast-paced game, pressure defense. Hopefully we'll be able to get enough of our style kids in here that can get up and down the floor. I like to run but more of a physical team that won't back down from anybody, that's going to compete every night.
KSR: When you recruit players to come to UK, what qualities/characteristics are you looking for?
MD: We look for the 3 A's. First we look for athletic ability, can they play and can they play at this level. Secondly, we look at academics and third we look at attitude. I think they've got to be able to play. They've got to be able to compete at this level, and then academically they've got to be able to qualify and get in school and stay in school and have an attitude of competing, working hard, and a team player. There's a lot of talent out there but a lot of kids don't have the heart to compete at the level that we need them to compete at.
KSR: Over the past two years, the program has made great strides though it may not always be reflected in the win column. Where you feel this program has most improved?
MD: I think first of all in the overall attitude of the players. I think they're taking some pride in their game, taking pride in Kentucky women's basketball. We compete every game. The SEC games here were down to the wire. We're closing the gap on the SEC games. We're taking pride in our program and that's start with each individual player.
KSR: What are you most proud of during your short time here?
MD: I think our run in the WNIT. Being able to have a strong finish and being able to host it was big for us and that says a lot about our crowds and our administration. They had to ante up and say "We're going to do this." They didn't know what kind of crowd we were going to have. They had a good idea but they had to eat it. I think it was huge. I think we generated more fans through that tournament. I think our fans developed a little sense of pride. They like that post season action.
This article is an excerpt from a lengthier interview to be published in the upcoming Kentucky Sports Report Magazine. In the meantime, visit the KSR premium forum for more insight into the article and the interview with Erin Childress.