Adams embarks on her 15th year as head coach

Jason Green, Staff Reporter

Her energy is infectious no matter what it is that she is talking about; and it is no surprise that people send their daughters from around the world to play for her.

UTEP women’s basketball head coach Keitha Adams’ statistics are noteworthy by any measure: three Conference-USA regular season championships—most recently in 2016; two NCAA tournament berths and two WNIT tournament berths—most recently in 2016; three seasons of 29-plus wins in the last five years; and back-to-back sellouts of the Don Haskins Center in 2014.

However, it is Adams’ love for her players that keeps them coming back even after their career in the orange and blue is over. Recently, two-time C-USA Player of the Year Jareica Hughes was back at the Miners’ practice.

“She genuinely cares about you outside of basketball, what you’re going to do with your life,” Hughes said. “I know there’s other coaches out there who have that mentality, but she has a very, very genuine way of showing that to her players and her staff—everyone that’s around her.”

Adams has a huge heart for her players and an even bigger smile. It is clear being around her that she loves her players and staff. Just watch one Keitha Adams practice and you will notice that the 15-year UTEP head coach knows when to turn the fun on and off and get down to business.

“I’m a big believer in preparation and how you prepare and how you practice. I’m very focused on the game and so I think my intensity and focus is really there when we’re (on the practice court),” Adams said. “That’s what you’ve got to be good at. You’ve got to be good on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to play well on Thursday night.”

It will take all of Adams’ coaching ability to get this year’s Miners together in time for a difficult schedule that will see them face LSU, NC State and Kansas State very early in the season. Making matters more difficult is the fact that this year’s team has eight newcomers—two transfer players and six freshmen.

Adams said that she wants to start the season off by not only throwing her team into the fire, but also working hard to make sure that her players understand her style of basketball and get them used to the rigors of NCAA Division 1 college basketball.

“With us being as young as we are and having so many new players, really all I’m focused on is us trying to teach our players what it is we’re trying to do and also to learn about our players,” Adams said.

Anyone who has attended a UTEP women’s basketball game in recent years has seen promotional videos during timeouts featuring Adams as a chef. In reality, Adams really does enjoy cooking, especially grilling, and the team even has a kitchen in the practice facility, where meals can be prepared jointly as a bonding experience.

When not preparing meals herself, the Oxford, Kansas, native has adopted Mexican cuisine as her favorite after having lived in El Paso for several years.

“H&H Car Wash is a great stop because you can get your car washed and gassed and have great authentic Mexican food, and then you get to hang out with Maynard (Haddad), which he’s going to give you some heck and BS with you. That’s a great stop,” Adams said.

She also recommended L&J’s and a new place on Mesa named Sabertooth Food Co.—this time for very “coachly” reasons.

“I love Sabertooth. It’s fresh. Cooked right in front. When you go in there, it’s running like a well-oiled machine. Everybody’s focused. Everybody. I’ve been impressed with their dynamics and their food is great,” Adams said.

Food is one escape for Adams, but her one true escape—more than movies, reading or anything—is music.

“I play guitar. I’m not very good, but I enjoy it. I started playing it after I lost my dad. My dad was really, really good. I have his guitars and so I started playing after we lost him,” Adams said. “That’s the one thing I can do that truly takes my mind off of everything. I get truly absorbed in a song and what I’m trying to do and I don’t think about anything else.”

When it comes to music, Adams has recommendations as well. “One Horse Town” by Blackberry Smoke is her favorite song to play on the guitar and reminds her of home. She also recommends anything by Alabama Shakes, who she saw in concert near the end of the summer.

“Nobody sounds like them. They’re authentic. They’re unique. They’re blues, country, rock. (Lead singer Brittany Howard) is—her voice, she can really play the guitar. She really puts all her soul into it,” Adams said.

Then as she began to speak about the diversity of the crowd and the band itself and compare it to the diversity on her team, she began to morph back into coach Adams yet again. The two are never too far removed from one another.

Once the 2016-17 season tips off on Friday, Nov. 4, against St. Mary’s, Adams may find fewer and fewer moments to be smiling. Adams may need to play her guitar and clear her mind a lot this season, but something tells me that she would not have it any other way.