Relationship leads to first head coaching job for area hoops legend

Tamika Williams-Jeter’s thoughts about next basketball season did not include being a head coach. She was ready for a third year as an assistant at Ohio State. But new Wittenberg athletic director and old friend Brian Agler had other ideas.

After Agler returned to his alma mater following a successful WNBA coaching career, he invited Williams-Jeter to see athletic facilities about a month ago. He drafted her in 2002 after she helped the University of Connecticut win two national championships. She thought the facilities were great. He kept calling her and talking about her being the next women’s head coach.

At first, she wasn’t buying what Agler was selling. But he persisted, and on Friday, Wittenberg introduced Williams-Jeter as its ninth head coach.

Her time to do this and return to near her native Dayton comes after years of coaching friends telling her she should be a head coach. She said she wants to build the same kind of relationships that have meant so much to her since her days at Chaminade Julienne High school.

“When somebody calls you and they say, ‘Tamika, you’re going to be allowed to grow and mold young minds, you’re going to be allowed to be impactful in your community and you’ll be allowed to win and help these student-athletes win both on and off the court, these are all spaces I want to help this university and this team thrive in,” she said. “And that’s why I came to Wittenberg.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The new coach met with her team Friday afternoon. All the players are coming back, including top scorers Kristie Kalis and Abigail Yunker. They are taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA. The Tigers were 5-3 this season and won 19 and 18 games the two previous years.

“I know we’ve got what we need in that locker room to get it done,” she said. “So I’m excited about that, and I’m going to lean on that experience to guide us through this conference.”

The Tigers last won the North Coast Athletic Conference regular-season championship in 2010. They have won eight NCAC tournament championships, most recently in 2015. That was also the last time Wittenberg played in the NCAA tournament. It has made eight appearances in all.

Williams-Jeter was the top recruit in the nation her senior year, played at UConn and the WNBA. She’s coached at Ohio State twice and at Kansas, Kentucky and Penn State. This will be her first experience with Division III, non-scholarship athletes.

“The adjustment of talent level is different, but the expectation’s the same,” she said. “After just meeting with them, they want to win. The level, you figure it out. The heart is always the same for me. So recruiting a kid that wants to play really hard or a kid that believes in getting their education and performing at a high level is big for me. But ultimately, I’m recruiting that heart. And we’ve just got to get better every day.”

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

Wittenberg’s upgraded athletic facilities certainly got Williams-Jeter’s attention.

“You come to Wittenberg and this is like a really nice mid-major,” she said. “You’ve got to come to see it. That’s going to be an easy sell when recruits come here. We’ve got to beat out some DII schools, so we’ve got to wait for some of them to fall through the cracks. Or maybe they’ll believe in my vision a little bit more than a DII school.”

Williams-Jeter said she’s already had people she trusts tell her they’ve got players she should recruit.

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