published Friday, March 15th, 2013

Lady Vols All-American Jody Adams has Shockers on rise


Former Bradley Central and Tennessee Lady Vols standout Jody Adams is leading a resurgence for the Wichita State women’s basketball program.
Former Bradley Central and Tennessee Lady Vols standout Jody Adams is leading a resurgence for the Wichita State women’s basketball program.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Wichita State's colors are black and sunflower yellow and have been since 1909, but there's at least a hint of big orange coursing through the women's basketball program.

When the Shockers take the floor this afternoon in the second round of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, they'll do so as the regular-season champion and the No. 1 seed.

And they'll be coached by former Lady Vols All-American Jody Adams, probably Wichita State's first UT connection since former Vols football coach Phillip Fulmer began his collegiate coaching career.

The Bradley Central star of the early 1990s is in her fifth season as the Shockers head coach, and the program has improved in each of those seasons, matching or setting one milestone after another.

Their 21-9 record is a school best, bettering last year's 20-win season during which they secured their first WNIT victory. This year's No. 1 tournament seed also is a first.

"Whether it was my first year of coaching at Auburn or year 20 now, it's still teaching life skills. Obviously the generation is different but you're still teaching life and coping skills," Adams said earlier this week. "It's been a journey, but I don't think about being 42 years old. There's a lot to the journey and there still are things to do."

Despite the protests of her family -- her dad, Joe, doesn't like to fly -- Adams has found a niche in Kansas.

"I do love it here at Wichita," she said. "They have embraced my vision of turning around a program, and we have sold kids on the dream that we could win a championship.

"I have had an unbelievable staff that could teach my vision. They understand me as a teacher, a coach and person. It hasn't been one person that's changed the culture here but rather a collective group. It's nice to be at a place that appreciates you and allows you to be yourself."

There was a time that Adams didn't necessarily feel appreciated, specifically those early days when Lady Vols coaching legend Pat Summitt was determined to add floor-leader skills to Adams' considerable scoring prowess.

"Pat had a vision for everyone, and I don't know that as players you understand everything at that age," she said. "She was right. She told me I had a chance to be an All-American. I was smart enough to know that if I wanted to win and because I respected the coaching staff I did what they asked. And Pat was right."

Adams has taken Summitt's trait of often-brutal honesty along with the legend's approach to personal relationships and the game itself.

"I don't know that I have that stare down quite yet," she said with a laugh, "but I discuss with our players different roles on the team and what's best for the team. What I tell kids today if they get their feelings hurt is that we don't do 'girly,' that truth is truth.

"Whether they start or come off the bench, they have to be able to accept that. Not everybody is going to be the company CEO. What's unique about my team this year is that we have had 11 different starting lineups, and it doesn't matter to them, which allows us to game-plan and scheme."

And then Adams added a true Summitt philosophy.

"Regardless of a player's role, it all starts by doing the little things correctly," she said.

Wichita State's success under Adams is no surprise to Holly Warlick, Summitt's UT successor and one of the coaches who molded Adams as a player and future coach.

"I know her work ethic and her knowledge of the game," Warlick said. "I know she demands a lot from the kids, and a lot of her intensity and knowledge rubs off on her players. She's been doing what she's been taught through high school and what she learned here. She's been to a lot of places. She hasn't limited herself."

From the combination of her dad, legendary Bradley coach Jim Smiddy and the Lady Vols' staff, Adams had quite an education.

"I think it's what her foundation is built on," Warlick said, "but she has made a lot of stops in order to learn all she could."

And it's beginning to pay off.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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