A Q&A with Sharrona Reaves

A Q&A with new Mississippi State assistant women's basketball coach Sharrona Reaves.

Why did you decide to get into coaching?
"It was probably due to my experience as a player in the SEC. I had a great experience at Alabama. And I had an opportunity to play on a Final four team. I had the chance to play for a great coach, Rick Moody, who I learned a lot from. I loved his coaching style and who he was as a person. I also had great teammates, and they were telling me all the time that I should become a coach.

"I went to school for advertising and my degree was in communications. I wanted to be a copywriter. I never thought I would end up coaching, but right out of college Troy State offered me their recruiting coordinator spot. I had (two opportunities) an internship in New York and a job. And my parents told me you had better take that job (laugh).

"I got into coaching and found that I loved it."

Being a recruiting coordinator is an important part of a coach's job. How did you land a job like that right out of college?
"The guy who was the head coach at Troy State, Jerry Hester, knew Coach Moody really well. They kind of grew up together. And Coach Moody told him that he thought I could do it.

"I was there for three years. Our second year we won a conference championship, the first in Troy State history and the only one in their history. We also went to the NCAA Tournament."

Since that was your first coaching job, it must have been a little tough being a recruiting coordinator.
"I think, in some ways, that it's natural for me because I'm a talker. I don't mind talking to people. I'm also one of those people who doesn't feel like I need to have a connection somewhere to get in on a player. I feel like if I can get in the door and I can show you what we have, we may have an opportunity."

Where did you go from Troy State?
"From there, I took about five years off. I got married and had a son. I knew I wanted to spend a little bit of time at home while my children were young. I felt if I was going to do it, that would be the best time. So, I stayed out for five years and had my children.

"When my daughter was one I went back into coaching on the high school level just to gradually work myself back into it. I wasn't really sure how we were going to be able to pull it off with a family, so I wanted to try high school first. My husband was very supportive, so I decided I wanted to do it at the collegiate level.

"The door opened at West Virginia through some people that I knew. I went there and met the head coach, who had only been there for a couple of years and was trying to build a program. It was at the bottom of the Big East at the time. I was the recruiting coordinator for one year and the number two assistant for two years. We were able to sign some great recruiting classes and do some great things."

From there, you went to Long Island University - C.W. Bost. Why did you decide to go there?
"I had been at West Virginia for three years and I decided I wanted to get some head coaching experience. I wanted to see how well I could do in that arena. I felt that Division II was a way to do it. And I would be able to work out the kinks and make my mistakes in a situation that wasn't so high profile. I think a lot of assistants take a job without having worked out their kinks first. And it can come back to bite you sometimes.

"I felt like I did pretty well. My first year, we played for the conference championship and lost by a point. We finished number 2 in the league our second year. We lost in the semi-finals by two points. We had three all conference players each year. We signed the 67th best point guard in the country my first year there. We had a lot of all academic players. Our team GPA was 3.2.

"We had a lot of good things happen for us, but overall I really realized that I wanted to be at the Division I level. I wanted to recruit that type athlete. And I wanted to be in the SEC.

"And the door opened here at Mississippi State. I came and met Coach Fanning. I liked her and we just clicked. And I'm really looking forward to serving in this position as her assistant. I want to help this program to be a top program in the SEC. And I believe we can be."

How does a coach's spouse handle it when a coach moves from job to job all the while trying to advance their career?
"He handles it ok. I think he gets frustrated sometimes. But this was a move we both agreed on because we were coming back to the south. He's from Jacksonville, Florida and I'm from Murfreeboro, Tennessee, born and raised. We've lived the past five years in West Virginia and New York and didn't know a soul. Because of that, this was a good move for us. And we have really taken a beating from our parents about having their grand babies so far away. "

Is it tough for a coach's spouse to find a job when the coach moves to another job?
"It's not as bad as you would think. A lot of times the university usually has positions available that are possible opportunities. It actually hasn't been too difficult for us because he was a police officer when he was at West Virginia. His profession is the type where you can pick up, relocate and (find a job) fairly easily because there is always a need for what he does."

How do your kids handle the moving?
"The moving, it's all they know. But I'm at the point now where enough is enough for them. I really want to be here for awhile. I'm not looking to leave unless the head job that I absolutely can't live without comes available. But right now I'm not even thinking about that because I'm really excited about what we are going to do here."

As a coach, what is your long-term professional goal?
"My long-term goal is to be a head coach in a major conference. The SEC, ACC and Big East are the three that I would prefer because that is the part of the country that I am most familiar with. And the SEC would be first on my list, followed by the Big East and the ACC."

What is your job title?
"I am the recruiting coordinator."

Describe what a recruiting coordinator does.
"A recruiting coordinator is, basically, someone who organizes where our recruiting base is, what our recruiting base is, where can we comfortably recruit kids and convince them to come and take a look at Mississippi State. You organize the July recruiting, the database from 2009 to even 2013, the mailouts that the kids will receive, who we are calling, who we are offering. Of course Coach Fanning dictates who we are going to offer. Pretty much everything in recruiting comes through you first."

Will Mississippi State's recruiting be nation-wide or mostly in the southeast?
"We clearly have areas that we have to recruit. That is Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Arkansas, all the surrounding states. But after having been up north and understanding their perception of the SEC, I believe we will be able to get into doors that we may have not normally recruited in the past."

What is their perception of the SEC?
"Their perception of the SEC is big, especially in women's basketball. We've had the national champions come from the SEC the past few years. And in the past two years there have been two SEC teams in the Final Four in each of those years. The kids and coaches up there have a great deal of respect for the SEC. I wouldn't have known that if I had lived in another location."

What will you coach on the court, the guards or post players?
"We are deciding that. All three of (the assistant coaches) have head coaching experience, so we have all coached the guards and the posts. After the July recruiting period, we will all come back and assess which coach does what. I'm comfortable with either the guards or the posts, so anywhere she puts me I will be fine."

You mentioned that all three assistants have been head coaches at one time. Is that a positive for this staff?
"I think as an assistant who has never been a head coach you don't necessarily understand the pressures and concerns of a head coach. When it's your record, your bottom line, your legacy, you understand how it is in that seat. When you understand that as a former head coach, that's nothing but a plus. When the pressure is the highest you understand it because you have been in that seat before.

"And when you have been a head coach you know what a head coach needs from her assistants to be successful, so you work that much harder."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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