Not long after the 2013-14 season, his first as women's basketball coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Jim Foster looked at assistant coach Katie Burrows and told her, "When I get done, you need to take over."
"When somebody like that tells you that you should do it, that you can do it, you believe it," Burrows said.
The Times Free Press has compiled a list of five potential candidates to replace Jim Foster, who retired after 40 seasons of coaching women’s college basketball, with his final five at UTC.
› Jody Adams-Birch: The former Bradley Central High School and University of Tennessee standout compiled an 187-123 record in 10 seasons as a head coach, the final nine at Wichita State. She led the Shockers to three NCAA tournaments and a pair of WNIT appearances.
› Katie Burrows: She spent the past eight seasons as assistant coach to the Mocs’ two previous head coaches, Wes Moore and Jim Foster. She spent time as an assistant at GPS before head coaching stints at Ringgold and Tullahoma.
› Marty Rowe: In 20 seasons of coaching (the past 14 at Division II Lee University), Rowe has 503 career wins, with 372 coming at Lee. His success with the Lady Flames includes an NAIA national runner-up finish as well as another appearance in the national semifinals, a pair of NCAA Division II tournament appearances and a National Christian College Athletic Association national championship in 2014-15, when the Lady Flames were transitioning from the NAIA to the NCAA.
› Jason Smith: The Bryan College women’s coach has compiled a 141-78 record in seven seasons, a span that includes a trio of NAIA Division II national tournament appearances. A jump like this wouldn’t be unprecedented — former Bryan coach Matt Bollant left the Lady Lions in 2007 after five seasons to take over at Green Bay.
› Nikki West: Although she lacks head coaching experience, West is very familiar with the area because she has spent the past 14 seasons on Moore’s staff, including nine years at UTC. She has been the associate head coach at North Carolina State the past five seasons, helping the Wolfpack compile a 112-52 record.
Albeit on an interim basis, she's getting that chance right now.
Burrows, the former Lookout Valley and UTC standout who has been a Mocs assistant for eight years, is in charge of the program while school administration starts the process of finding a replacement for Foster, who retired Tuesday after 40 seasons of coaching.
Wes Moore — Foster's predecessor at UTC and now the coach at North Carolina State — encouraged Burrows to take up coaching at the college level. Now her most recent boss has given her an even bigger opportunity.
"I'm ready," Burrows said Tuesday. "He (Foster) has prepared me, Coach Moore has prepared me. I'm excited about it. I'm looking forward to getting to make big decisions. It's going to be weird at first, cause people are going to ask me questions and I'm going to have to remember I have to make those decisions."
But coaching has always been in Burrows' DNA. Her father, Joe, spent 39 seasons as a head coach at Lookout Valley. Her sister, Kristen Clounch, has coached at Lookout Valley as well and is the school's athletic director. Her brother, Keith, was the boys' basketball coach at Hardin Valley, while her sister-in-law, Jennifer (Wilson) Galloway — another former Moc — is that school's girls' basketball coach.
While Burrows understands the process the school will go through to replace Foster — who went 120-40 in five seasons with the Mocs and led them to four NCAA tournament appearances — she didn't hide her interest in assuming the job full-time.
"Nobody loves this place more than I do," she said. "It's really kind of funny, because I always said I don't want to coach in college. I want to have a family, I want to coach high school and do like my dad did, stay somewhere for 40 years, and that's what I had envisioned. But Coach Moore was persistent, and I'm thankful for that.
"It's going to be fun to continue it, and I hope I can do it justice. Nobody knows it better, nobody is going to put more into it that's out there and going to try to come for this job — physically, mentally and emotionally — so to be rewarded for that would be awesome if that does happen, but I've got to go through the process like everybody else. They're not just going to put anybody in it, I know that much, but I'm excited for the potential that it could be me."
And there will be support. While Foster didn't allude to specific names, it's been no secret he would like to see Burrows have the opportunity. When asked if he would listen to Foster concerning coaching decisions, UTC vice chancellor and athletic director Mark Wharton said that "he (Foster) has coached me up a little bit already."
Said Foster: "He'll have a pretty good idea about what's going on, what needs to be done. I'm confident he'll go in a good direction."
Maybe that means Burrows. Maybe it doesn't. Time and a national search will tell.
But one thing is sure: Right now the former UTC standout is living her dream — even if she didn't initially realize it to be such.
"I never would have thought I would have come here," Burrows said. "It's interesting how God works. I never would have dreamed I'd be doing what I'm doing now, something I truly love, and I get to share that with my family. They're so excited for me.
"They're here every game, they're so supportive, and I don't know that everybody has that and I'm so incredibly thankful for that. So I look forward to moving forward with this and seeing where it goes, because I know they've got my back. They're always there with me, and I don't know a lot of people that get to do that, so it's pretty cool."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.