Cavalier Corner

June 2018

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14 CAVALIER CORNER basketball team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. There, with Thompson by his side, Chancellor led the United States Olympic Team to the gold medal. Thompson said Chancellor taught her that teams will change, players change and personalities are different. He also provided her an example of how to deal with a diverse group of athletes. "You have to meet people where they are, and that's going to be my approach," Thompson noted. As a former collegiate coach, Thompson recalls that Chancellor came into the league with "a process and a way" because that was the norm in college basketball. Chancellor had to modify his coaching style and be more flexible. "He came into a situation with big per- sonalities," Thompson said. "Coach Chan- cellor did a very good job of recognizing who he was coaching, and he did not allow his ego or his personality to lead our team. "He allowed the personalities to create the environment. That adjustment and that approach were great for me." The on-court success and the guidance of coaches like Aston and Chancellor have prepared Thompson well for the basketball part of being a head coach. The most significant adjustment for her as a first-time head coach will likely be off the court — the day-to-day management, administration and outreach part of college basketball. "I think that the learning curve for her, and what it is for everyone, will be the man- agement piece," Aston said. "It's the man- agement of staff; the day-in and day-out planning of things. It will be new for her, but it was new for her to be an assistant. "She had never coached before, she had never obviously done the role she was in, and she was able to very quickly adjust and move forward. I wouldn't expect anything different from her as a head coach." Aston is not concerned about Thomp- son's ability to adapt and sees her as a great fit with donors. "I think she'll be terrific," Aston noted. "She has a presence about her and is very understanding of the importance of founda- tion donors, people that have an investment in women's athletics and women's basket- ball in particular. She has a great apprecia- tion of people that support women. "As a player and as a coach you do ap- preciate those that invest. I think that's easy for her because she has invested so much in our game." When tackling the grind of meetings, planning, travel, scheduling, recruiting and the like, Thompson has an "I'll figure it out" kind of attitude about life and hoops, according to Aston. "When you look at the trajectory of her playing career and then you watch how quickly she adjusted to coaching, I think she's one of those people that just figures it out," Aston said. Thompson was a second-team All-Ameri- can as a senior in 1997 and finished her career at USC fifth on the university's career lists in scoring (2,248 points) and rebounds (1,168). Her professional career concluded with the Seattle Storm in 2013 as the league's all-time leading scorer with 7,488 points in 496 games played (15.0 points per contest), a mark that stood until 2017. Her drive and determination, Aston said, pushed Thompson to successful outcomes. "She has this gift of 'I'm a successful woman. I'll figure this out regardless of whatever roadblocks I face. I'll tackle it and figure it out,'" Aston said. "I think that's what successful women do, what successful people in our profession do. "The big challenge most often is to deal with the failures and roadblocks and the things we call life. I don't think she will tackle this any differently." In her introductory press conference, Thompson echoed her former boss. "In everything that I do, I want to be the absolute best, and I want to lead from the front," she said. "It's where I enjoy being, in the front and leading and teaching." In her first year in Austin, Thompson was heavily involved in the development of se- nior center Imani Boyette, who earned hon- orable mention All-America honors from the Associated Press. In 2015-16, Boyette became the first player in program history to reach 1,000 career points, 1,000 career rebounds and 200 career blocks, and was the fourth player in school history to be selected in the first round of the WNBA Draft. Thompson was also responsible for the development of Kelsey Lang, who was a 2016-17 All-Big 12 honorable mention se- lection. Lang finished her Texas career sixth in blocked shots (190) and 36th in scoring (1,086 points). Undaunted by the moment, Thompson noted that many first-time head coaches have had tremendous success in women's college basketball. Drawing on the wisdom of Virginia Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan, Thompson put the "first time" question in an intriguing perspective. "I'm quoting Coach Ryan in this," Thompson began. "I saw an interview yes- terday, and she revealed that not only she but also coach Geno Auriemma [of Connecticut] as well as coach Pat Summitt [of Tennessee] were all first-time head coaches when they took the jobs at the university they were at. "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, leading and teaching." THOMPSON Thompson (center) became the fifth head coach in UVA women's basketball history and just the third since the end of the 1976-77 season, joining Joanne Boyle (left) and UVA legend Debbie Ryan (right). PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA

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