Tina Thompson is ready for the opportunity to lead Virginia

The new women’s basketball coach doesn’t shy away from challenge of first head coaching job

20180418-TinaThompsonPressConverence-AWalsh013

Tina Thompson will replace Joanne Boyle as head coach for Virginia.

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

In 1997, with the first ever pick in the WNBA’s history, the Houston Comets selected Tina Thompson. After guiding the Comets to four WNBA championships, Thompson proved that Houston made the right choice with their pick. 

It has been 21 years since she was drafted, and Thompson finds herself in yet another position to prove that she’s the right pick. However, this time, she’ll do so from the coaching side. 

Tina Thompson comes into her first head coaching job excited and eager, looking to bring Virginia women's basketball to new heights with her legendary playing expertise. 

On April 16, Virginia Athletics Director Carla Williams announced that Thompson would be the new women’s basketball head coach for the University. Though Thompson has never served as a head coach, she is ready for what she believes to be an opportunity that is the perfect fit for her. 

“This is a wonderful opportunity, and the going theme has been that this is my first experience, and my thoughts is what a great first,” Thompson said in her introductory press conference Wednesday afternoon. “I am excited. It's not often that someone with my experience gets to be a part of a program so prestigious, so committed to excellence and young people, not just academically but also athletically. That is absolutely who I am and what I embody.” 

Williams expressed a similar sentiment of excitement for Thompson’s potential as a head coach.

“There are inherent risks in everything,” Williams said. “When you go from the No. 2 to the No. 1, there's transition, and I know a lot about that. If you're willing to work hard, if you're sharp, and if you're competitive and you care about people and can build relationships, you can be successful. And Tina has all of those things. And so while there will be a transition period, I'm very excited about the possibilities in the future.”

Thompson’s coaching career began in 2015 when she was offered a position as an assistant coach at the University of Texas. Though Thompson was a little reluctant to begin a career in coaching, she quickly excelled. She was especially well praised for her work of developing talent in post players along with her recruiting abilities. While Thompson was doing great in her role, it didn’t take long for her to realize that she wanted more responsibility. 

“Approaching my first season at Texas, it was my goal,” Thompson said of attaining a head coaching job. “I mean, it's my intentions in everything that I've done, I think I've been able to have the success that I've had in my basketball career as well as coaching because of my intentions. In everything that I do, I want to be the absolute best, and I want to lead from the front. It's where I enjoy being, in the front and leading and teaching.”

So far, Thompson has proved her intention to be the best has lead her to that very accomplishment. In her 17-year professional playing career, she was a member of the WNBA All-Decade team, an eight-time All-WNBA selection, the All-Star MVP in 2000 and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. When Thompson ended her WNBA career in 2013, she left as the league’s leading scorer with 7,488 points to her name. The record stood in place until Diana Taurasi recently surpassed it in 2017. As a result of such a decorated career, Thompson will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this September. 

Of course, these accomplishments didn’t come easily — and Thompson’s experience with coaching has been no different.  

“First year, [was] really tough,” Thompson said. “It's definitely different on the outside looking in from the coach's perspective, but I fell in love with the kids, being able to pour my experience into them and the growth that they were having because of it is what said, maybe let me try this again. So that's how year two happened. And from then on, it was just kind of a marriage. I enjoyed it. I loved, loved, loved the kids, and here I am.”

Now that she’s here at Virginia, she’s looking to build off of the successful season that the Cavaliers just finished up. This year, the highlight for the Cavaliers was their first win in a game of the NCAA Tournament since 2009. The squad returns a great deal of talent, and Thompson is ready to start working with them right away. 

“Well, I'll first say that we're going to work hard,” Thompson said. “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… 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.”

With her commitment to excellence and her determination to embrace challenges, it certainly seems like Tina Thompson is positioned to prove, just as she did 21 years ago, that she’s the right pick.  

related stories