Women's Basketball summer sidelines: Part two
TexasSports.com caught up with Gail Goestenkors, who was named UT women's head coach less than 10 weeks ago. "Coach G", as she is fondly called, talks about building relationships with the Longhorn players, hiring her staff, expectations for 2007-08, settling into Austin, meeting with the media and the fact that she has been 'round the world these last 10 weeks, traveling to Italy with USA Basketball and then to Africa on a long-planned safari. This is the first of two "Conversations with Coach G" to run in June.
Next up in "Conversations with Coach G" -- an further look at the Longhorns players, the style of play that the 2007-08 Longhorns will show, the new UT coaching staff, and photos from the safari!
Can you look back at the last two-plus months. What is this whole process been like for you -- moving from Durham and Duke University to Austin to take over the Longhorns basketball program? It has been exciting, but it's been a total whirlwind! After the press conference here (April 5) I went to Italy two days later with the USA Basketball National Team for a tour. I cut that trip short by a few day to come back and do some recruiting. Back at Duke, I cleaned out my office, cleaned out my house, put my house up for sale and moved here. I spent as much time as I could under the NCAA off-season spring practice rules with the players doing individual workouts and evaluations and meetings. My main goal, in addition to recruiting, was to spend this time getting to really know our players before the end of the school year.
At the end of May, I took an 11-day adventure to South Africa and surrounding countries on a safari which was two years in the making. One of my very closest friends at Duke planned this trip for her 50th birthday celebration, and she had made special note to plan it around my schedule and Atlantic Coast Conference meetings. My friend had been there for me during the stressful decision-making time this spring, and since she had been by my side during this process, I owed it to her to be there for her on this trip. It was an incredible adventure, and I'll be sure to talk more about it and post the photos very soon!
Now, I'm back in my office as much as possible, meeting with the players, running our summer basketball camps, working with the new staff, recruiting, recruiting, recruiting, and getting settled into all things Texas! I've been spending a lot of one-on-one time trying to get to know who the players are and letting them get to know me as well.
Looking back at your big decision to come to Texas, how did your former (Duke) players and other coaches respond to your decision? (Tennessee head coach) Pat Summit called me up and told me, 'I admire your courage'.
My players at Duke, once they came around, understood about challenges and decisions. One of them told me that 'Coach G, some day I'm going to remember this when I have to make a decision that is scary.' I am all about challenging myself, and I have a great want and need for challenges. My decision was to stay at Duke and have a legacy, or move forward and make a big change and meet a new challenge head-on. I made the right decision, for sure!
While at Duke, you had success recruiting in Texas. Now that you're at Texas, what's your recruiting philosophy? We want to own the state of Texas. We know that it is our number one priority, to do a great job recruiting in Texas. You don't really need to go outside of Texas, because there are so many great players excelling here. It is by far the best state in the country as far as talent goes. Yet, I certainly will go national recruiting-wise, too, if there is someone special that we'd love to have in burnt orange!
You've stated that you and (men's basketball coach) Rick Barnes had a friendship prior to you coming to UT. How has he helped you in this process? How about other Longhorn coaches? Rick actually helped me look for a house early on -- he has the energy to do it. He can do his job and my job! (laughing)
In terms of advice from Rick, first and foremost, he wanted me to come to Texas. He is so energetic about everything. When I was here on my visit, we met for a couple of hours, and then I went on with the rest of my itinerary. I was supposed to get some rest one night for two hours -- from 4-6 p.m. -- where I was supposed to go back to the hotel and decompress, but Rick called me, insisting on taking me back to the hotel. So instead of sleeping or resting, we spent two hours sitting in his car in front of the hotel talking! He can talk, can't he?
We've known each other well, not only from our ACC days, but through Nike trips. We've known each other for over a decade. I value his input, along with so many other coaches here at Texas -- Mack (Brown), Augie (Garrido), Bev (Kearney), of course, Jody (Conradt) -- the list goes on and on! What I heard from them was them speaking from their hearts. They came here to Texas be surrounded by greatness and tradition and to challenge themselves and work with some of the brightest young student-athletes in a great academic and athletic setting. That is what pulled me here, as well.
How about your conversations with Coach Conradt? Jody is the greatest ambassador for women's basketball we have. We've known each other for a long time, and I have the utmost respect and admiration for her. Jody had done phenomenal things. We had important conversations. She wanted me to have this job, and her blessing was extremely important to me. There's the great challenge of restoring the Texas dynasty, and I welcome that challenge. Unlike some people, I see challenges as opportunities. When faced with challenges, some people see obstacles, but I see opportunities -- great opportunities.
What are your early impressions about the returning Longhorns players? From day one, they have welcomed me with open arms and they made me feel really good. I know they are ready for some new things. A new offense, new pressing, running, a different style of play, so I've just been really pleased with the way they are open to my new ideas. I've been so impressed with their willingness to do whatever I've asked of them. They love Jody (Conradt), but they are excited about a new energy and approach.
I have several tapes of Texas games from last year. I am reviewing them, watching every game to see the progression of the season. I want to know what happened. Clearly the early January injury to Erika (Arriaran, torn ACL) was one of the biggest things that happened.
I don't know the mindset of last year's team, but what I saw on the court was that Tiffany Jackson dominated in a lot of ways. Some were good and some were tough for some of the other players alongside her. She was a dominant player, and sometimes when you have one dominant player, it is easier to defend that. She was getting double, tripled-teamed every game. I think we won't have one superstar "go-to" person this year -- it'll be very balanced.
Talk a little about the style of play that Texas Basketball will bring to the court this year. It will be exciting -- mark my words on that! We will push the ball, run and trap! I love to change defenses and keep the opponent guessing. We'll make some mistakes, but that is part of the growth process. The things we can control are our hard we play and how smart we play, and that's our emphasis.
I can promise our fans that this will be an exciting style of basketball to watch. And, I want them to know that I am counting on them to help us grow, with their support and enthusiasm every game!
What are your expectations for your players, on and off the court? Right away, I wanted to set a tone so that they understood exactly what is going to be expected of them. We are going to have a lot of discipline, we're going to have a lot of fun, but we're going to do things the right way from the beginning. If you're going to be a champion, you have got to act like one in every aspect of your life. Whether it is on the court or in the classroom, or how you carry yourself in public, we are going to walk, talk and act appropriately and like champions.
Let's talk about some non-basketball things. How are you adjusting personally to Austin, and have you found any favorite spots around the city? This is such a wonderful place to live! I've been around the Town Lake area and it is just beautiful! I've not had much down time at all, to be honest, with my prior commitments and with all the time I am spending getting to know my players and making contact with recruits. The restaurants here are incredible so far, and I've enjoyed finding those spots. I'm taking a lot of suggestions from Austinites right now! I also hope to take in some live music soon. I really have an eclectic taste in music, so Austin, being known for its music, holds a lot of appeal for me in that area.
Finding a home was a big task, and I took my time just trying to find what was going to be comfortable for me to call home. I just closed on my house last Friday. I didn't want to rush into it because I know Austin is going to be my home for a long time. Now that I'm unpacking and settling in, it's a big relief and exciting at the same time. I'm ready to go!
To get on the Women's Basketball season ticket mailing list or to receive material on mini plan or group ticket packages as soon as the 2007-08 schedule is finalized, please contact UT Athletics Events, Sales, and Services at 512-232-3865.