Wichita State University coach Jody Adams has a long resume, dating back to her graduation from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where she helped the Lady Vols win a National Championship in 1991. She has been assistant coach at Auburn, Wake Forest, Minnesota, UMKC and Southern Illinois, and head coach at Murray State. She took the helm of the Shockers program in 2008.
Adams has coached seven all-conference players and has won Missouri Valley Conference coach of the year honors twice, including last season.
This past spring she was the focus of a school investigation into her coaching practices, after four former players lodged complaints. The University found no evidence of wrongdoing by Adams.
Sue Favor: You’ve been coaching for a long time, and have taken Wichita State to new heights in the seven years you’ve been there. Do you feel like you’re hitting your stride as a coach?
Jody Adams: I definitely would say it’s not like heading into my first year as a head coach in that transition of being an assistant. Thing are way different as a head coach. As an assistant you’re always pushing student athletes to a vision, and getting them to be comfortable with the vision of the head coach. Those who aspire to be head coaches have their own visions. But until you walk that walk, you don’t have a clue as to how fast the mind races.
A good staff is an extension of the head coach. You want your student athletes to come to you for advice, and now I’m not in that push role – I’m in the lead role.
For me in doing this I’m always wanting to empower young women in leadership skills and qualities. Earning their diplomas is the first and foremost priority. We’re using basketball to teach leadership skills, and it will help them in what they want to achieve in their communities.
Sue Favor: When did you know you wanted to coach?
Jody Adams: I come from an athletic family, as my dad and grandfather are both in hall of fames in baseball, both as players and coaches. I’m just very fortunate and blessed to have parents that supported my desire to coach. I didn’t know at what level.
(Coach) Pat (Summitt) lets you make your choices good and bad. I had a job just out of college, and got another better offer that I was going to turn down. She said, “I really see you at the next level.” So I took it.
Sue Favor: Speaking of Pat Summitt, how did playing for her shape you as a coach?
Jody Adams: The great thing is that my vision, boundaries and leadership paralleled with Pat in many ways. That IQ I developed came from working with her and her mentoring. Pat got to show me the world through basketball. My family was in Cleveland and Tennessee; that was our life. Pat showed me a bigger part of the world. She showed me more through basketball. That was really unique for me: she said, “you get to choose.” You’re already good, but if you want to be great you have to give that extra effort. You hear all of us in coaching talk about greatness. It doesn’t come without talent, the people your surround yourself with and that extra effort on your part. I’ve always tried to surround myself with those I could learn from. What mattered to me in that extra effort off the court is that I I love my kids, care about them and would do anything for them.
Sue Favor: Last spring four players left Wichita State, prompting a school investigation into your coaching style, after which the school stood in support of you. What did you learn from that experience?
Jody Adams: You’re going to take away something. I really looked at me as a human, really looked at myself in the mirror. I’m known for winning championships, taking programs and making them great. But there is this other side of me as a coach that cares about these student athletes. Now how I get to recruit today versus how I started the program is very different. You learn what works for you, what works well. That’s where you don’t know until you go through these various stages. You’re always seeking learning how to do better, and better for this generation. But my boundaries don’t change, as a coach and me as a 45-year-old adult. And that’s where I am.
Sue Favor: You won a championship at Tennessee in 1991. What has been your greatest moment in coaching so far?
Jody Adams: My first recruiting class here at Wichita state – I got to see them get through as seniors. When they came there was no leadership, they had no experience, and they did the grind work that was necessary – the grind work that is so different than the grind work of today. That work was putting on your hard hat and the boots and seeing if you can get past the boundaries of your mind. And now look at where they are today.
Sue Favor: What do you want your legacy to be?
Jody Adams: A coach that did it all for their student athletes, between the lines. Someone who’s there for you, there to help you, to share experiences and to share what she’s been through. Someone to help, to lean on, to share with, whatever their goals and dreams are I’m here to help them, both on and off the court.
Sue Favor: What do you like to do in your spare time, when you do have some?
Jody Adams: I love to ride my Harley cross country with (Tennessee coach) Holly Warlick and (LSU coach) Nikki Caldwell. I love spending time with my fiancé and family and friends.