Langley ready to embrace challenge of rebuilding Washington

FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2019, file photo, Rice head coach Tina Langley talks with her players during a timeout in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M in Houston. Washington hired Langley as its new women’s basketball coach Monday, April 5, 2021, giving one of the top coaches in Conference USA over the past six seasons her first shot at leading a Power Five program.

SEATTLE (AP) — Tina Langley has already engineered one major program rebuild, turning Rice into a powerhouse in Conference USA.

Now she will get to see if she can pull it off in one of the toughest women’s basketball conferences in the country after taking the head coaching job at Washington.

“A long time ago I was taught by a great mentor that sometimes you can look too broadly and take your focus off of the task at hand,” Langley said during her introductory news conference Wednesday. “And I think that our task right now is teaching our team at an elite level, and having a group of young women who are committed to their training and committed to a culture and philosophy and working incredibly hard on a daily basis.”

Langley faces a significant task as she takes over the Huskies program at a time when the Pac-12 is at the peak of women's college hoops after Stanford and Arizona met for the national title.

Not that long ago, blessed by having the NCAAs all-time scoring leader in Kelsey Plum, Washington was playing in the Final Four. But the era that followed the graduation of Plum and departure of coach Mike Neighbors to Arkansas was dreadful. Under Jody Wynn, the Huskies went 38-75 overall and 11-58 in conference play.

The Huskies never finished higher than ninth in the conference standings during Wynn’s tenure. They went 7-14 overall and 3-13 in conference play this season. There were also issues with players departing quickly during Wynn’s tenure.

Langley sees similarities between Washington’s current situation and the one she inherited at Rice. The Owls finished above .500 once between the 2007-08 season and Langley’s arrival in 2015.

She won 22 games in her second season.

“There are definitely similarities. When we come into this program this year I think there’s going to be a lot of enthusiasm for women’s basketball,” Langley said. “I think that one of the things that’s really fun about this community is the passion for growth, and obviously the passion for women’s basketball in the Pacific Northwest.”

Langley went 126-61 in six seasons as head coach at Rice. The Owls went 44-4 in conference play over the past three seasons and Langley was named the Conference USA coach of the year in 2019.

Rice went 23-4 overall this season and 12-2 in the conference to win its first outright conference title. The Owls lost to Middle Tennessee in the Conference USA tournament title game, but rebounded to defeat Ole Miss for the Women’s NIT championship.

Washington athletic director Jennifer Cohen said the school was drawn to Langley by what she accomplished at Rice, but also her experience as an assistant to Brenda Frese at Maryland.

“The combination of the experience that coach Langley had at the highest level, especially during the time that she was at Maryland, and then you combine that with how she built Rice, coupled with her wanting to do things the right way and what she stands for and how that fits us,” Cohen said. “We’re absolutely thrilled about her being our next leader.”

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