April 6, 2022
Tamika Williams-Jeter returns home to Dayton
What the start of the Williams-Jeter era means for the Flyers
Around 10:30 am on March 22, Brian Agler, vice president and director of athletics and recreation at Wittenberg University, walked into the office of head women’s basketball coach and senior associate athletic director Tamika Williams-Jeter. She believed something related to the athletic department had come up as she was holding her end-of-season meetings that day, something she noted he wouldn’t interrupt.
Instead, Agler told her that Dayton vice president and athletic director Neil Sullivan had called him. Williams-Jeter’s first response was to ask him to relay the message she would be passing on the opportunity.
“I’m just thinking about my mom and I don’t know, I always say no,” Williams-Jeter told The Next.
Agler told her she needed to take the call with Sullivan and encouraged her to interview and listen to what Dayton had to say.
After finishing her end-of-season interviews, Williams-Jeter went to Agler’s office and he reinforced what he had said earlier in the day. Twenty minutes later, she was on the phone with Sullivan and two days later, she had an offer. She considered the offer overnight, needing to pray and think on it.
“I felt like I put a lot into Wittenberg,” said Williams-Jeter. “And I felt like I had built a solid roster that could win our conference again, and could go a lot further. I feel like we had a Sweet 16, Elite Eight team at DIII. If I was going to do it, we were going to do it big. And I had great kids—it was hard to walk away.”
She ultimately accepted the job and told both her Wittenberg team and her new Dayton team on March 25, before the official announcement was made on March 26.
Williams-Jeter is a Dayton native and played high school basketball at Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School, less than two miles from UD Arena, where she was formally introduced as the 10th head coach of Dayton on March 28. Despite the short turnaround, Sullivan noted that the search was vast and he was open to many different types of candidates.
“I just want to be really clear that Tamika earned this job by who she is, the way she represents herself, the way she interviewed, the way people talked about her, her basketball acumen,” Sullivan said at Willams-Jeter’s introductory press conference. “It was the total package.”
He later added, “This job wasn’t open until a week ago today, and we were talking about basketball and she started talking about some actions that our team was running and she started talking about some zone that we were playing. And I said, ‘Okay, she’s been paying attention to Dayton basketball more than I anticipated.’ So she was watching, she was watching.”
Only two years prior to the new job offer, Williams-Jeter didn’t envision herself as a head coach.
In Sept. 2020, Williams-Jeter told the hosts of the Underdog Podcast she wasn’t interested in becoming a head coach and really enjoyed being an assistant coach. A few months later, Williams-Jeter took on the head coach role at Wittenberg after her mom got sick.
At her introductory press conference, Williams-Jeter noted that though her mom, who has dementia, couldn’t make it that day, she would be able to attend every practice with her daughter.
Williams-Jeter became the head coach at Wittenberg in 2021 after more than 15 years of experience, including as a graduate assistant at Ohio State and as an assistant coach at Ohio State, Kansas, Kentucky and Penn State. At Wittenberg, she went 18-8 last season, winning the NCAC Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship Game and leading the team to its first NCAA Division III Tournament since 2015.
She took a break from coaching from 2011-to 2014, during which she worked in private business and served as an ESPN commentator, a US State Department Sport Ambassador and traveled with NBA Global and promoted the game of basketball.
She chose to return to coaching after looking at what she had done and after her mentor called her and told her she had more to give because she was a different person. Williams-Jeter also wanted to move closer to home; she was living in Texas in 2014 after her dad got sick.
“I can’t go up close to home and not do anything,” Williams-Jeter said. “So I was like, maybe I’ll coach, and then Matthew Mitchell [then head coach at Kentucky] called, and I came on a visit, he offered me a job right by his pool, and he got me back in. I love that man for that.”
Williams-Jeter has been involved with basketball since she started playing the sport back in 1990 and found success at the high school, college and professional levels. She was named Ohio Player of the Year in 1997 and 1998 and WBCA national high school player of the year in 1998.
She then went on to play at UConn, where she earned Big East Rookie of the Year in 1999 and averaged 10.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game during her career, was on two National Championship teams and set the NCAA record for career field goal percentage (70.3%). Williams-Jeter was the sixth overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft and played for the Minnesota Lynx for six seasons and finished her career with one season on the Connecticut Sun. She still holds the league’s single-season field goal percentage record (66.8%, set in 2003).
Williams-Jeter takes over a Dayton team that graduated five players and saw three players enter the transfer portal. If all three players in the transfer portal do not return to Dayton the Flyers will enter the 2022-23 season without 92.1% of the team’s scoring from last season.
Her top priority is currently the players on her roster. “I have to make sure that they are settled and that I bring people in around them that can grow them and help them mature and be impactful,” she said.
She noted that there’s a lot of talent in the players on the roster and that they sat behind players who had more experience, saying they had to wait, but now it’s their turn.
Her next priority is to fill the roster with players that are like-minded. “I don’t want to mess that up by pulling the trigger on someone who might not make that so great or might create some divide,” Williams-Jeter said.
Dayton has been known for playing fast and having a staunch defense and Williams-Jeter plans to continue that, noting she hopes to be more aggressive defensively.
Though she’s been on the job for less than two weeks, she’s already busy recruiting, acting as a one-woman show until she hired Bryce Agler on April 5.
Through her experience as an assistant coach and as a head coach at Wittenberg, Williams-Jeter learned to not set a timeline for the goals of the program, though she wants to someday make an NCAA Tournament run like Dayton did in 2015 (Elite Eight), and other mid-major programs have done in the past.
“We’re not going to win the A-10 and go, ‘Oh, that was a good year, okay, let’s worry about next year,'” she said. “We want to win the A-10. And we want to go, why not be South Dakota? Why not be Villanova? Why not be Creighton?”
Williams-Jeter later added, “Winning the A-10 and dominating this conference is a standard at UD, so I can’t claim that. But trying to really, really make a run in the tournament is something that I would love to bring here.”
Despite never coaching in the Atlantic 10 Conference before, Williams-Jeter has been paying attention to it. She looks forward to getting something different in every game played, from a rat race against La Salle to playing a first-to-50 game against Fordham. Williams-Jeter believes it’s going to be fun to prepare, get her team ready to continue to dominate the A-10 and reinvent the program in the process.
Off the court, Williams-Jeter looks forward to helping her student-athletes grow and impact the community.
At Dayton, Williams-Jeter looks forward to doing more of her favorite thing as a head coach, building relationships with players. She enjoys seeing them mature, change, make better decisions, and figure out their lives and is with them through celebrations and times of loss.
“It’s a lifelong relationship and collaboration, and it’s one of the best feelings in the world,” Williams-Jeter said.
As she sat in her office on April 1, looking at “Dayton Flyer Basketball” on the wall, she was thinking about her father.
“If he was still alive, he would just be—he would sit in here with me every day. I think he would just come to work with me,” Williams-Jeter said. “He would be so excited if he was still alive.”
Coaching at Dayton gives Williams-Jeter the chance to spend time with her family and other people she loves. “People that have seen me, not seen me grow up, like, seen me be born and then grow up,” she said. “It’s different when you’re at home … I mean, there’s no better feeling than to be where you’re loved the most.”
Written by Natalie Heavren
Natalie Heavren has been a contributor to The Next since February 2019 and currently writes about the Atlantic 10 conference, the WNBA and the WBL.
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