Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Williams-Flournoy Revives Reeling Georgetown Program

Chris Bien
Chris Bien

Terri Williams-Flournoy didn’t want to be a coach.

Before she led the Georgetown women’s basketball team to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, nearly knocked off Geno Auriemma’s Connecticut squad in a Sweet 16 game and was chosen to coach a USA national basketball team, Williams-Flournoy was a college grad trying to make it in the banking world.

The Virginia native played four years at Penn State, graduating in 1991 with a degree in business management. The summer after graduation, she worked at a local bank and used her free time to help her brother — AAU magnate Boo Williams — coach a 16-and-under girls team. She didn’t consider coaching as a career until then-Georgetown Head Coach Pat Knapp came calling in 1992.

“It’s funny, because I actually told him no,” Williams-Flournoy said. “And then my brother was like, ‘You don’t want to be a coach?’ and I was like, ‘No, did I ever tell you I wanted to be a coach?'”

Eventually, though, Williams-Flournoy decided to take the job. She spent four years as an assistant at Georgetown, and the Hoyas reached the Sweet 16 in their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance in 1993.

Williams-Flournoy left the Hilltop in 1996 to take a job as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Georgia. The Bulldogs made the Big Dance every year during her tenure, advancing to two Elite Eights and one championship game.

After six successful seasons at Georgia, she took yet another assistant job — this time at Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University).

But in 2004, Georgetown beckoned once again. Williams-Flournoy had amassed a 251-116 record in 12 years as an assistant, and upon her return to the Hilltop she was charged with resurrecting a program that hadn’t participated in March Madness since 1993.

Williams-Flournoy exceeded everyone’s expectations, turning the perennial Big East basement dwellers into a force to be reckoned with. Drawing on her experiences playing at Penn State, coaching at Georgia and watching former Georgetown men’s basketball Head Coach John Thompson Jr., she developed an effective, player-friendly coaching style and relentless full-court strategy on both offense and defense.

“We played this way when we were at Georgia, and I remember being here as an assistant and seeing the way Coach Thompson played,” Williams-Flournoy said. “It’s just always been a more exciting game to watch than standing there in a two-three zone and walking the ball up the court.”

Williams-Flournoy appears to have found what many coaches struggle with their whole careers: a successful in-game strategy that is popular with her players.

“The playing style that she’s adopted is just perfect,” graduating senior guard Monica McNutt said. “I mean, it’s perfect for the group of girls that we have in terms of our quickness and our length — it covers up what we lack in size. Not only does it work well for us, but as you can see, it causes quite some problems for our opponents.”

The 2011 season was arguably the best in school history: The Lady Hoyas eclipsed 20 wins for the second year in a row and blew out two teams in the NCAA tournament. They led for much of the game against UConn in the round of 16, nearly defeating the No. 1 overall seed before a second-half scoring drought doomed their upset bid.

While Georgetown looked like it belonged in the ranks of the college basketball elite this season, the revival was anything but easy. The Lady Hoyas went 35-49 in Williams-Flournoy’s first three seasons at the helm and failed to even qualify for the Big East tournament from 2006 to 2008.

“Those first three years, it was bad,” Williams-Flournoy said. “You begin to question yourself, whether you can do it. [I] didn’t know it was this tough to be a head coach.”

The most difficult aspect of coaching, however, can’t be found in the standings. Williams-Flournoy’sbiggest struggle has come from trying to balance her responsibilities as a coach with her responsibilities as a wife and mother.

“You begin to get pulled in so many different ways, and there’s just never enough time in the day,”Williams-Flournoy said. “To have your own kids here, to have your kids at home … it’s very time-consuming and sometimes you wish you had more hours in the day to actually get everything done.”

Despite the apparent difficulty in maintaining a balance between coaching and parenting, Williams-Flournoy has clearly put together something special.

Much of the credit for the Blue and Gray’s recent success will rightfully be given to star sophomore guard Sugar Rodgers, who was a major recruiting coup for the LadyHoyas two years ago. Recruiting, however, is still no walk in the park — even with a winning team.

“Recruiting is 99 percent of our job,” Williams-Flournoysaid. “It’s still very difficult. We have the education here to sell, but when a kid walks into McDonough Gymnasium and says, ‘Oh, this is where you play?’ it becomes a little difficult, when a lot of the schools we’re recruiting against have some of the best facilities.”

Still, winning on the scale that Williams-Flournoy has is bound to garner some national attention. Though she is far from a newcomer to the coaching scene — she will have coached for 20 years this summer — the Lady Hoyas’impressive showings the last two years have made her one of the hottest up-and-coming coaches in the nation. This spring, she earned a chance to be an assistant coach on USA basketball’s world university games team. She was also invited to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Although she could undoubtedly seek a job with a more established program at this point in her career, Williams-Flournoy has unfinished business at Georgetown.

“You’ve got to get to the Final Four,” Williams-Flournoy said. “You just have to get to it. I experienced the Final Four as an assistant, but I could only imagine doing it as a head coach.”

So in seven years, Williams-Flournoy has gone from a relatively unknown assistant to one of the most notable head coaches in the nation. She has turned the joke of the Big East into one of the conference’s most dangerous teams. And while her relentless press and run-and-gun offense are surely part of the reason, her excellent treatment of her players cannot be discounted.

“Ter-Bear and I are so close,” McNutt said. “I think the beauty of her coaching style is that she’s allowed her players to dictate what needs to be done for us to be successful.”

No one knows what the future holds for Georgetown women’s basketball. But with Williams-Flournoyat the helm, that future definitely looks bright.

Not bad for someone who never wanted to be a coach.

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