A week and a half has passed since the end of Jaida Williams’ second season leading the Coastal Carolina women’s basketball program, and she says she hasn’t slowed down yet – and doesn’t plan to, for that matter.
It was a tough season by any measure for the Chanticleers, who regressed by three wins from her first year while finishing 12-18 overall and 6-14 in the Big South with a loss in the first round of the conference tournament.
But that hasn’t dimmed her outlook for the program or her motivation to deliver on that vision.
“Every mentor that I’ve had [has said] ‘You just need to take a break, take a step back.’ And I think eventually I’ll get there. But I’m not there yet because Coastal isn’t where I want it to be yet,” Williams said. “So I haven’t taken a break yet and I don’t have any plans to because there’s so much work to be done. …
“There’s so many people that want to see this program do well and I don’t want to let them down so I want to make sure I’m doing everything possible.”
Before welcoming a visitor into her office Friday, she was wrapping up a phone call regarding the Chants’ 2015-16 schedule, which she says will be more challenging for her team.
She’s also working on the roster for next season, hoping to officially add two transfers by next month who she says will be immediately eligible to play for Coastal Carolina.
In the meantime, she said this offseason is as much about the coaches working on themselves as the team.
The coaching staff at Virginia has invited Williams and her assistants to visit and talk strategy, which will be one of several professional development opportunities, as she puts it, for the staff.
“We want to perfect what we’ve done. I think last year was our first time trying to play a pack-line type defense,” Williams said. “We’ll have the length [next season]. It will be a lot different when you have the length on the inside and you’re packing in the gaps. … [And] I’m interested to learn from the Virginia coaching staff in terms of what they do.
“I don’t have all the answers just yet. It’s a part of the professional development part of it, but I’m interested to see how they do it and I’m excited.”
Williams has also taken plenty of advice and input from South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, whom she had crossed paths with on the recruiting trail before meeting again at a coaching function.
She says they now talk about every other week.
Her conversations with Staley, who has turned the Gamecocks into a top national contender, are a primary reason why Williams isn’t panicking after a trying season in which her team lost 10 of its final 12 games. Nor does she feel any added pressure heading into next season, she said.
“Pressure, I don’t feel that. No, I believe we’re building and we’re building the right way,” Williams said. “I’d be foolish to believe it could happen overnight. It took Dawn six years before they were a great program. …
“She talked to me about how she built South Carolina. We’re following a lot of the same blueprint here, and that’s why when asked that question I understand that it’s going to take time and I know we’re putting the right pieces in [place]. It’s going to come together.”
Williams added that sometimes the progress of that process is not always as visible to everybody else during the early years, but she believes the program is poised to take significant strides next season despite the struggles this year.
“The biggest thing is staying true to the process and understanding success, what it looks like in a young person’s mind – in her words – is straight to the top, when it’s really up, sideways, around, up, up,” Williams said of her talks with Staley. “She said it starts with the culture. You have to make sure they are bought into what is going on in the program. Secondly, is recruit, recruit and recruit.”
Speaking of personnel, the Chants are losing their best player in two-time first-team All-Big South selection AJ Jordan, who led the conference in scoring at 16.9 points per game as a senior.
The rest of the team, including steady rising-senior forward Anna Vogt (13.9 points, 7.7 rebounds per game), is expected to return.
The difference, Williams said, is that the Chants will have depth. This season, promising sophomore guard Karsen Sims had to take a redshirt season, the team lost sophomore forward Dionne Parker after eight games to a knee injury, had an incoming center from overseas not arrive until January and lost another player for undisclosed reasons.
Williams expects to carry a full roster of 14-15 players next year, boosted by those incoming transfers she hopes to make official next month.
And she expects to be competitive.
“Because of our depth problems, we didn’t have the chance to compete in practice and so if you don’t teach competitiveness where do you learn it? So I think those things will be key for us next year,” Williams said.
“I believe there will be a ton of breakthrough,” she said. “… I’m just really excited. I believe there will be a lot of good things happening in the program next season.”