The excitement of preparing for the NCAA Tournament has never dulled for Jody Adams as a coach.
She speaks frequently to the Wichita State women’s basketball team of her days as the starting point guard on the 1991 national championship team at Tennessee.
Since then, Adams has returned to the NCAA Tournament twice — once as an assistant coach on the 1996 Auburn team that went to the Elite Eight, and then again in 2008, when she led Murray State to the Big Dance in her first and only season as coach before coming to Wichita.
That experience is invaluable in March, and Adams hopes her experiences can prepare Wichita State, the No. 14 seed in the Norfolk Region, for its first-round game against third-seeded Texas A&M on Saturday in College Station.
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“You always want your players to feel what you felt as a player,” Adams said. “This is a truly special time for my student-athletes.”
Adams isn’t the only coach on staff with NCAA experience, as assistant Bridgette Gordon has a wealth of experience. She won a national championship and played in four Final Fours at Tennessee, where her number is one of only five retired in program history.
In 2005, Gordon was also on the Stetson staff that qualified for its first NCAA Tournament.
WSU players know their coaches’ history and respect what they’ve accomplished. It’s what gives their words credence.
“If they didn’t have what it takes to be a champion, we wouldn’t have accomplished what we did this past weekend,” senior Michelle Price said.
What WSU accomplished was winning its first Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, which got its first trip to the NCAA Tournament. That’s on top of winning a share of its first conference title along with setting program bests in overall wins (24) and conference wins (15).
It goes back to the staff surrounding Adams, she says.
Each has a specialized role. Dana Eikenberg is the offensive coordinator and Kirk Crawford is the defensive specialist, while Gordon is the recruiting guru. Each has a strength that compliments Adams.
“We communicate very, very well,” Adams said. “We’re very similar in how we see the game and how we read the temperament of the players. We’re all different, but we have one thing in common and that’s working hard for these student-athletes.”
The typical expectation for teams making their first NCAA appearance is to enjoy one last game, take the loss and try to soak in the experience for a return showing.
Even though this team has become the most successful in the program’s four-decade history, it is not satisfied with just qualifying for the tournament. It genuinely wants to win.
That hasn’t kicked in this week or this month or even this season.
That’s been the expectation ever since Adams arrived at WSU and that’s the only expectation these players know.
“We’ve been prepared for this game for the last four years,” senior Chynna Turner said. “The coaches bring that championship mentality and it’s rubbed off in the way we work and the way we train. We expect to win.”