UVA introduces Tina Thompson as new women’s basketball coach
The University of Virginia formally introduced Tina Thompson as its new women’s basketball coach at a press conference on Wednesday.
Thompson comes to UVA after serving on the coaching staff at Texas the past three seasons. Prior to entering the coaching profession, Thompson had a college and professional career that gained her entry into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the 2018 induction class.
Highlights from the press conference
Athletics director Carla Williams on the process:
“For this process, I knew that it would be important for me to identify what we needed in order to increase our chances for success. A person of high character that embodies the values of the University of Virginia; a person who values higher education and the lifelong benefits of learning; someone who could connect with our players and create an environment where the players wanted to exceed expectations in the classroom, on the court, and in life; someone with great talent and the ability to attract great talent; a coach who knows firsthand what it takes to win championships; a coach that cares about the players as people, above all else; a teacher who is willing to learn, willing to share, and eager to impart wisdom on young people.
“I spoke to a small number of people in the industry that I trust, and Tina Thompson’s name kept coming up. We started this process with a very short list, and Tina’s name was always on that list. Her life lessons, her experiences at USC, in the WNBA, in the professional leagues all over the world, two Olympic teams, as well as her experiences at the University of Texas prepared her for this opportunity. At this moment, we need a winner. We need an inspiring leader and a fierce competitor, someone our players and recruits will be inspired to follow, someone who loves to teach young people how to be winners in life. We found that in our next women’s basketball coach, Tina Thompson.”
Tina Thompson on staffing:
“I haven’t made any decision yet, but one thing that I know to be true about myself is that I know basketball, and I know people. So the way I’ve approached the process is that I’m going to get to know the staff that’s here. I’ve heard so many great things about them. I was extremely impressed about how the assistants approached the process and Coach Boyle leaving. They have no idea what their future is like, but they were extremely dedicated to our girls and their process. They showed up every single day, continuing to coach them and be here for them in every way that they possibly could. That is awesome. To me that shows me the people that they are and what they’re willing to do for the program. So I think the best thing for me to do in this situation is to get to know them, to get to know them better.
“What I want to do is create the most stable environment for the kids and try to not make very many changes. They love Coach Boyle, and her leaving was not easy for them. So me being here is a transition enough. So I’m going to try as much as I possibly can to create a stable place, and who knows, they might not want to be here with me, so it’s a mutual decision between our staff and myself.”
Tina Thompson on recruiting:
“Well, I mean, it’s – at the end of the day, it’s about the kids and the ability to get the top kids. But also the ability to grow the skill set and the knowledge of the kids that you have. I was dedicated to just growing my game and just be a forever student, so not only are we going to go after the top players, but we’re okay where we are right now. I mean, our kids are willing to learn, and I’m willing and our staff is willing to give them all the information that they need. We are going to talk about the things that we don’t do so well. I don’t like necessarily calling them weaknesses, but things that we can get better at and committing to doing that.
“When you are a complete player or a whole player and people can’t force you to not do things that you don’t do so well, it makes us really hard to guard. So that’s what we’re going to focus on. We’re going to focus on being better students, and it doesn’t necessarily take the best players in the country all the time. It’s a matter of being good enough, playing hard enough, and approaching the game in a certain way.
“I just remember a season ago, not very many people were talking about Mississippi State, and they weren’t very familiar with the players that were on their team. But their dedication to each other, to the game, to getting better is what put them in that position that they were at in the last couple years.
“It’s a commitment to just getting better, and they did that, and that’s the same approach that I plan to take.”
Tina Thompson on the challenge of getting up and running:
“I guess a little overwhelming in the sense that I had no idea how everyone else was going to, I guess, be involved or excited about the process. The amount of text messages I got or mentions in re-Tweets or comments on social media was like, wow. I mean, everybody is pretty much like paying attention. So that was incredible.
“I think the thing that – for me that stood out the most, two of the people that reached out to me immediately were Coach Ryan and Coach Boyle. I thought that that was first class, like, all the way. I think neither one of them had to do that. I knew that in that moment that I was coming to a special place, and immediately after that, Coach Bennett sent me a message, a couple messages, and then the rest of the staff here, like the entire athletic department, each coach, in season, right now, they’re busy and they took the time to send me a message of congratulations, and we’re here if you need us, any kind of support. Even offering their staff. I was like, whoa. I absolutely, totally made the best decision ever, because not often do you get that type of support.
“It just mirrored the thoughts that I had already, that this is a very special place, and the decision that I made was the right one.”
Tina Thompson on the potential of the UVA program:
“Well, I’ll first say that we’re going to work hard, and I would be remiss to say that this is not going to be a process. It is. And building something great and worth having is absolutely a process. But we’re in a good place. Coach Boyle left this program in a good place. Winning is always good, and when you start from a place of winning, it does make the process a little easier, but even the easy is hard. To be consistent, to continue to win, especially in the ACC, it’s one of the most storied programs in women’s basketball, and games are competitive nightly.
“It is, it’s going to be tough, but I like tough. I wouldn’t be sitting in this position if I shied away from the hard or tough parts of this profession.”
Tina Thompson on building on this past season’s NCAA Tournament run:
“I mean, last year is last year. You know, I mean, you have to kind of keep moving forward. It’s something that we can reflect on and build at, but I’m an everyday student, so we can always get better. We can always learn more. We can always, always be more competitive.
“And in talking to the girls, they feel the same way. I mean, some of the questions were statements, in that there are certain things that they want and that they’re looking for from me, not just once but also things that they feel they need individually. That’s a good place to start, because that means that everybody is open to work, and in order to be successful, you have to sit on a very stable foundation of work.”