Derek Johnson: Tell us about how Washington entered onto your radar as a job opportunity, and how you made the decision to come to Seattle.
Tia Jackson: I had to think about it. Because it would mean moving away from
my family again — my family lives in Maryland. I thought if I am going to make
this decision, I have to really do my homework. I knew a lot about Washington,
having played against them (for Iowa) and coached against them (as an assistant
for Stanford and UCLA). But I didn't know a lot of the intricate details. For
me, it took a few days to take it all in and digest it. I was at Duke (as an
assistant) and we had just lost to Rutgers in the NCAA tournament. I got the
phone call the very next day! The call didn't necessarily come out of left
field, but it came much quicker than I thought it would (laughs). I needed to
digress and reflect. It was important to think over this great opportunity that
was awaiting me here in Seattle.
I took a few days to think it over and talk to my family. Of course, my Mother
didn't want me to go to the opposite corner (of the continent). As I thought
about it, and prayed about it, and talked it over with my family, it became
clear that this was the best situation for me. From questions like, where can I
be successful? Do we have the resources to be successful? Do we have an
institution that is academically sound? My resume obviously indicates that I'm
big on the academic side of things. So is this place complimentary to what I
believe in? Do I have not a bare cupboard, but at least a few seasons in the
cupboard? So it was very important for me to consider all these things. After
I accepted the position, the ball went rolling about 100 miles per hour.
Johnson: The reception to you here has been very warm. Tell us what it was like
throwing out the first pitch at the Mariner game.
Jackson: It was kind of nice. I have been in the spotlight as a player, so I
didn't really notice all the people. I was used to that. But later I was
looking at a photo of my staff standing behind the (pitcher's) mound after I
threw the pitch, and I realized that there were a million people there! (laughs)
Johnson: Were there any unexpected challenges you discovered after you took the
Jackson: The biggest surprise was discovering that I had to recruit my current
players all over again. I don't want to say it took away from the other part of
recruiting in going after the younger (high school) kids, but I discovered that
it was just as important to get to know my current players. I think I said at
my press conference that I really wanted to get a phone right away and start
building those relationships.
(The Husky players) needed to understand what my expectations are and I needed
to understand what theirs were. It was about getting them comfortable. It was
about, 'Hi, my name is Tia Jackson, the new Women's Head Basketball Coach at the
University of Washington' - then having them reciprocate that introduction, and
getting to know each of them as a person and learning how to motivate them. You
know, I could watch a lot of video of them to see what they could do as players,
but it was important to get to know them too.
Johnson: What has been the biggest surprise in a positive way?
Jackson: How well the community received me. Everyone was so welcoming. It
was like their shoulders were relaxed and they said `We are so glad you're
here.' Every time I would go speak somewhere, having those kinds of responses
from people after I spoke, was very moving. Now, are there high expectations on
everyone's account including my own? Absolutely. So, I really want to tap into
that and begin generating a buzz about the program and get people excited about
the direction of the program and about where we're trying to go and accomplish.
Just to hear people's reactions and optimism was pretty awesome.
Johnson: What is the strength of the team this year?
Jackson: Our biggest strength is that we have so much offensive power. Just
from what has been showcased in practice, on any given night anyone from the
entire roster is capable of scoring 10-15 points.
Johnson: What's your strength as a coach?
Jackson: How I relate to the kids. I don't think there is one way to motivate
everyone. You have to tap into them individually, to find a way to tap into
each player to maximize their talent and development as both a basketball
player and a young lady. I take a great deal of pride in establishing those
individual relationships so that collectively we are unstoppable.
Johnson: Are you the type of coach that will develop a system that is contoured
to your players? Or are you going to recruit players in the future that will
fit into your preferred style of play?
Jackson: I like versatile players. I will be honest with you Derek, the more
versatile we are the better we can experiment and not be locked into one way
of playing. But in essence, I like the fast-paced game. I like transition
(basketball). It is fun and it's exciting. I love hustle plays. I love having
the defense generating a lot of what we do on the offensive end. We were able
to step on the court September 15th for two hours a week before October 12th
hit, when we could practice four hours a day. Since September 15th, we've been
working on defense, because we already know we can score. Now, how are we
going to maximize our opportunities on the offensive end? It's by playing
smart, smart defense.
Johnson: You have a large and very close family network back on the east coast.
Are they going to be coming to Seattle to catch any of your games?
Jackson: If they could have it their way, it would be every game. My oldest
brother is a freelance journalist and has the most free time and availability to
come out. He's already been here. My Mom came out for three weeks, and it was
just like I was moving away to college for the first time. It was just like I was
moving into the dorms all over again. But as far as the big family push, for our
first home game everyone will be here. Mother, father, brothers, nieces, nephews,
you name it. It will be a great and exciting time.
Derek Johnson can be reached at email@example.com
His website is www.derekjohnsonbooks.com
Q & A with Tia Jackson
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