May 7, 2021
Wittenberg brings former UCONN and WNBA star Tamika Williams Jeter home to coach women’s program
"This is home, This is super home, This is what made Tamika"
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Move over Dorothy.
You aren’t the only one who knows “there’s no place like home.”
Just ask Tamika Williams Jeter – a Dayton, Ohio native – and the new Associate Athletic Director and Head Coach of the women’s basketball program at Wittenberg University, a private liberal arts college in Springfield, Ohio.
“This is home. Super home for me. This is what made Tamika,” she said shortly after being introduced Friday afternoon.
“This has given me the opportunity to do the things I enjoy, care about and hold deep to my heart and make a lasting impact on my community.”
Jeter, 41, spent the last two years as an assistant at Ohio State and replaces interim Coach Valerie Driscoll. Driscoll replaced Brian Neal, who was hired last May but left to take an assistant coaching job at Butler in December.
A former two-time Ohio high school player of the year, Jeter had an exceptional career at UCONN, helping lead the Huskies to national championships in 2000 and 2002. She started her coaching career at Ohio State from 2002 to 2008 then had stops at Kansas, Kentucky and Penn State before returning to Ohio State before the start of the 2019-20 season.
Jeter also played in the WNBA from 2002-08 after being selected No. 6 overall by the Minnesota Lynx whose head coach then was longtime WNBA coach Brian Agler. Agler, a Wittenberg alum and now Wittenberg’s Athletic Director hired Jeter for the job he said she’s perfect for.
“She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our program. One thing about her, when she enters a room, the energy level will go up and it’s happened at Wittenberg since she got on campus.”
Jeter will be Wittenberg’s ninth head coach and fourth since Pam Evans Smith, the all-time winningest coach in program history (401-169 from 1986-2007).
The Wittenberg Tigers are a Division III university and compete as members of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC). They finished 5-3 last year in a COVID-impacted season that didn’t start until February.
The Tigers last won the North Coast Athletic Conference regular-season championship in 2010, the third season for coach Sarah Jurewicz. They have won eight NCAC tournament championships, most recently in 2015. That was also the last time Wittenberg played in the NCAA tournament. It has made eight appearances in all.
“Why Wittenberg, people will ask me. It’s home. It’s a hidden gem with a tradition of excellence,” Jeter said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity because it’s all about growing and molding young minds.”
Jeter said Wittenberg also affords her the chance to be an impactful person and force in the community. “I’m from here and we have alumni, professors, community members who believe in the study body. This is giving me the opportunity to help Dayton, help Springfield, help my community grow.
“I also want to continue a tradition of winning at Wittenberg. We’re trying to win a lot of games at first, then the conference and on and on. We want to win. This is a great conference.”
This will be her first go as head coach. Jeter felt Wittenberg was the best experience for her out of the gate. “Knowing Brian (Agler) and he’s an alum, been a head coach. I have a built-in mentor,” she said. “He has been a part of my life for the past 20 years. I thought he was crazy to think of me being a head coach but it’s a blessing. I am so happy he picked up that phone and called me when he did.”
Jeter plans to capitalize on the increased visibility, marketing and popularity of women’s basketball especially at the collegiate level to put Wittenberg on the map.
“To see the big jump in women’s athletics, to see the parity – you never know who’s going to win – I want to bring that here. I want to bring that hope you see. I want to create women who will be impactful and influential in their communities; that’s my goal.”
After being introduced to the media, Jeter took a few minutes to speak with The Next about the origin of her infectious personality, her love of music, her greatest achievement and her longtime friendship with UCONN teammates Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Asjha Jones.
Jeter likes music.
No, she loves music and it has to be playing. All the time.
“My husband makes fun of me; he calls me the human jukebox,” she said laughing. “When a song comes on – it could be 1990’s Guns-n Roses or Four Non Blondes – I probably know it. I’m that weirdo. From gospel to Beastie Boys, to Drifters I like it all.”
And that full of life, infectious personality and wide grin? “It’s a choice. Life is not guaranteed. How you live it is,” she said. “I told the team today we gotta have fun; we gotta smile; we gotta pick each other up.
“We spend too much time for it to be depressing moments. It has to be fun uplifting moments. I really believe that.”
Jeter said she is the happiest when she is around family and big groups of people “that really love and care about. I love those moments when everyone is in their space in their pure form, in their element and music is playing – you know music has to be playing – and they’re dancing. That’s when I’m happiest. And music has to be played.”
Her family, husband and kids – two young boys – are her greatest personal achievement, Jeter says. “I’m grateful to God for that.”
From a professional standpoint, not winning national championships but doing it with the people she did it with is a great achievement, Jeter said.
“The trajectory of UCONN basketball changed (after the early championships). Everything was great; coach started to win and stack ‘em up after that,” she said.
As for her teammates, Jones, Cash and Bird? “I talk to them everyday. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t send a text or have some form of communication.
“Anything we can talk about and discuss. We could have our own talk show or podcast and it would be, like, legendary because we were there and the first to know that we could be pros if we did what we did on the court.
“We’ve experienced this all and come full circle,” Jeter continued. “And we’ve all stayed in the sport in some form or fashion. Sue, ol’ crazy butt, still playing. The winning was great but the people I did it with were even more fantastic.
Yeah, Jeter reflects before hanging up; “Having my kids and husband and mom and being 41 and being part of their lives, that’s what makes me happy – while the music’s playing.”