Behind the scenes with the Women’s Basketball assistant coaches: The players’ perspective
Jody Conradt’s three assistants – associate head coach Karen Aston along with assistant coaches Kathy Harston and Travis Mays – have a myriad of accolades, honors and accomplishments from their playing and coaching days. All-America honors (Harston, Mays) … NBA first-round draft pick (Mays) … coaching state championship teams (Aston, Harston).
Yet what the Longhorn players appreciate about the coaches goes beyond – and deeper – than past awards and accolades.
“Oooh, they are so demanding,” smiled freshman post Aubry Cook. “But really, we understand why. They are determined to make us better players every day.”
Veteran assistant coach Kathy Harston has “a really intense and motivated side to her on the court and the funniest side off the court”, in the words of senior guard Nina Norman.
“Kathy has great insights into offense,” noted freshman Earnesia Williams.
Harston, who is in her 17th season at UT, always can be found with a backpack of game tapes (“no DVD’s for her, just old school with the tapes” laughed freshman guard Erika Arriaran) and a sweet iced tea from Chick-Fil-A.
“Kathy is the funniest coach off the court and on the court, oh boy, she means business,” senior guard Tamra Cobbins said.
“Kathy is hilarious off the court,” notes Norman. “I really like working with her at basketball camps, as she is a lot of fun to work with and tells lots of jokes and stories. It is always fun to learn from someone who knows the game as well as Kathy does.”
Arriaran and senior Daria Mieloszynska collaborated on their thoughts about Harston.
“It’s OK for me to say this, since I tell her it every day - Kathy has 17 different personalities!,” laughed Arriaran. “We tease her because she is always telling us stories about ‘back in the day’. She admits she never played a lick of defense and never passed, so she is making up for it by demanding we do those things perfectly now!
“It is always about her old school days,” Mieloszynska interjected, “Did she play the game with peach baskets on the wall?”
“Yes, and they had wooden shoes and skirts for uniforms,” laughed Arriaran. “See Coach, we can be just as sarcastic as you!”
A Kodak All-American at former Division I powerhouse Wayland Baptist University, Harston recently was chosen as one of the "Top 25 Players of the Pre-NCAA Era" by ESPN.com.
“I think it’s pretty awesome that she was honored like that,” freshman Carla Cortijo said. “None of us really knew how great a player she was. It’s pretty cool to know that she played the same position as me and did all that.”
Turning to second-year coach Travis Mays, the words “supportive” and “positive” jump to everyone’s mind.
“Coach Travis still has game!,” smiled Cortijo, referring to the former Texas, NBA and European pro star’s ability to still mix it up on the court. “He is always supportive and helpful.”
“He brings a positive image to everything he does,” Cobbins said. “Travis is devoted to giving you one-on-one time.”
“Travis is calm and looks at the positive side,” agreed Arriaran. “He’s done it all here at Texas, and you can learn so much from him every day.”
“I love Coach Mays’ positive spirit,” Mieloszysnka noted. “He is easy to talk to, whether it’s about music, basketball, or personal things. He is the type of guy you go get ice cream or coffee with and sit around and talk about life.”
At the opposite spectrum is Aston – the most intense of them all.
“Karen is very, very intense. She competes every minute as a coach, in practice and in games. She is driven to make you get better and raise the bar,” Williams explained.
“High intensity. That’s Karen,” Cook said. “But, she is always trying to be your friend and encouraging you whether you play good or bad.”
“I love Karen,” noted Cobbins. “She has pushed and pushed me and has made me the defender I am today.”
“Karen is a total caffeine fiend who lives on her Sidekick and Blackberry!”, Arriaran said, referring to the fact that a cup of Starbucks or Peet’s Coffee is never far from Aston’s fingertips as she constantly checks messages, emails and text messages.
“Karen never stops working and wants the best for us,” Arriaran noted. “But there’s a new side of her. Every time she sees me, she has a lot of nerve to come up and hit my hair and laugh! I’ll have four years of this?”
“Karen is a hip dresser, she loves popular music, but mostly she is driven,” Mieoloszynska said. “I’ve learned so much about basketball – especially defense- from her.”
“She jokes a lot with me – off the court,” Cortijo said. “On the court, she switches over and is so intense. But, that’s what makes her really good at what she does.”
All-America junior Tiffany Jackson summed up the players’ feelings.
“The three of them are always trying to keep Coach Conradt sane, which is really hard since I know we (the players) drive her insane at times!,” Jackson noted. “It would be wrong unless you wrote how stylish the three are on the sidelines for games. Some other coaching staffs might have one or two coaches who dress well and look good and are classy, but all three of our assistant coaches are.
Most important, they are SO competitive and push and push us. We really do appreciate them and what they are giving us every day.”