Q & A with Tia Jackson

Husky women's basketball seems to be in good hands with the arrival of 34-year old Tia Jackson. Dawgman.com recently spoke with Jackson about her upcoming inaugural season as a first-time head coach.

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 job?

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 derekjohnsonbooks@comcast.net

His website is www.derekjohnsonbooks.com

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