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

Coach of the Year: Terri Williams-Flournoy

When Terri Williams-Flournoy took over Georgetown’s women’s basketball program five years ago, she brought not only a wealth of coaching experience and a knack for recruiting, but most importantly a sense of patience. That steady approach began paying dividends last season, when Williams-Flournoy led her young Hoyas to a 20-14 record and a trip to the WNIT quarterfinals, making her The Hoya’s choice for Coach of the Year.

“It’s been a process here,” the always confident Williams-Flournoy says. “I knew exactly where I wanted my program here to go and I know how to get there, it just takes some time.”

Athletic success runs in Williams-Flournoy’s family. One brother, AAU basketball guru Boo Williams, played basketball at St. Joseph’s University and the other, Mike Williams, played football at Army. Williams-Flournoy went on to play basketball at Penn State, where she competed in three NCAA tournaments, and during her senior year, the Nittany Lions held the top spot in the AP poll.

“I grew up all around sports, so it was like you were either playing it or watching it,” Williams-Flournoy says, describing the household atmosphere that introduced her to a life of basketball.

It’s not surprising then that after graduating from Penn State in 1991 she spent a year with her brother Boo as he started up a girls’ 16-and-under AAU basketball team. He would continue in the AAU ranks for the next two decades, but Williams-Flournoy knew her heart was in coaching and joined Patrick Knapp’s staff at Georgetown in 1992.

In her first season as an assistant coach at Georgetown, the Hoyas made their first ever NCAA tournament appearance, advancing to the Sweet 16. Williams-Flournoy spent three more years at Georgetown before stops at Southwest Missouri State University, now Missouri State University, and the University of Georgia, which she helped lead to consecutive Final Fours in 1995 and 1996. During her time as an assistant, Williams-Flournoy continued to hone her skills and learn from other coaches, something she credits for much of her success as a head coach.

“I think just going around and being at different colleges and working with different coaches, just getting all different types of ideas from so many people, it helps you to develop,” Williams-Flournoy says. “You know, when people say, `What’s your philosophy?’ you can kind of put together your own philosophy, but it’s usually from what you learn from other people.”

In August 2004, Williams-Flournoy replaced Knapp as Georgetown’s head coach following his departure for the same position at the University of Pennsylvania. Williams-Flournoy’s first three seasons on the Hilltop were far from her most successful, as Georgetown failed to reach the .500 mark or the Big East tournament. In her fourth season, the Hoyas achieved their first winning record under Williams-Flournoy, but a postseason appearance still eluded her squad.

“Being involved with so many successful programs as an assistant coach, you know what needs to be done, but it just takes time,” Williams-Flournoy says, reiterating the importance of patience. “I think we’re definitely on the right track right now.”

That they are after one of the most successful seasons in program history.

Williams-Flournoy brought in a highly-regarded seven-player recruiting class, but the loss of last year’s top three scorers limited this preseason’s expectations. Georgetown was ranked 11th in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, which in previous seasons would have earned the Hoyas a spot in the Big East tournament – this year’s expanded 16-team tournament meant all teams qualified – but still firmly placed the Hoyas in the bottom half of the conference.

Williams-Flournoy got her Hoyas off to a 5-0 start, and her team compiled a 10-3 nonconference record that showed that Georgetown would be able to compete against the top teams in the Big East. Then the Hoyas began conference play in style, ending a 12-year drought in Big East openers by defeating rival Syracuse 80-73. An 86-68 win at South Florida several weeks later gave Georgetown a 3-3 conference mark.

Then came the most trying part of Georgetown’s season, a four-game losing streak in late January and early February that included several heartbreakers.

First, Georgetown fell to No. 21 Pitt, building a 27-23 halftime lead before scoring a season-low 12 second-half points in a 50-39 loss. Several nights later, the Hoyas gave the top-ranked and eventual national champion Connecticut Huskies one of their toughest games of the season; Georgetown led 25-24 with six-and-a -half minutes remaining in the first half before Connecticut eventually took control to win 80-61. Trips to DePaul and Rutgers proved no more successful. DePaul scored seven points in the final 1:04 to nip the Hoyas 57-51, and Rutgers beat Georgetown 60-47 in double overtime.

During that stretch Georgetown’s top two scorers, senior guard Karee Houlette and junior forward Jaleesa Butler, each missed significant action. Buoyed by their return, Williams-Flournoy’s young Hoyas bounced back with a four-game winning streak that put them back at .500 in the Big East.

“You look at those four straight losses, they were against some of the best teams in the conference,” Williams-Flournoy notes. “But it only made us better. It’s a learning process. You know, you never want to lose four in a row, but I think it helped us to understand the work that we needed to get done, and how hard it’s going to be to accomplish our goals.”

Losses in the Hoyas’ final two games of the regular season dropped Georgetown to a 7-9 record and a tie for ninth place in the Big East before a first-round loss in the conference tournament. But again, Williams-Flournoy got her team to rebound, reeling off three straight wins before falling in the WNIT quarterfinals.

Besides being the deepest postseason run in Georgetown history, Williams-Flournoy is excited about the experience the team gained from the WNIT.

“The biggest thing that you learn in postseason play, you learn that you either win or go home,” Williams-Flournoy says. “Postseason play, you give all that you have or you go home. And I think that that’s the best experience as a young team; that’s a little bit of pressure. . And that’s something that you really, you can’t teach that. You have to be involved in that, you know you have to be playing in that type of atmosphere, playing under that type of pressure.”

When asked about what her team could do next season, Williams-Flournoy, like any great coach, was less interested in what could be accomplished than in what it would take to get there. “Our goal is to win 20 games next year and get to postseason play, but that’s a goal that’s only going to come from hard work. We can make as many goals as we want, but if you don’t work, it just doesn’t matter.”

With an attitude like that, Williams-Flournoy may well have a few more Coach of the Year awards in store for her.

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