North Texas women's basketball coach Karen Aston took the reins of the program a little over two months ago and we had a chance to catch up with her and discuss a wide variety of different topics.
MeanGreenSports.com: It's been a little over two months since you have been on the job, does it seem like it's been that long?
Coach Aston: It's gone really quick and the process of it all has simply been a whirlwind. Time has gone by faster than I can blink it seems.
MeanGreenSports.com: What has been the biggest surprise that you have been encountered?
Coach Aston: You know when you have been doing it for a while nothing surprises you anymore. Maybe just the embracing of everyone. You can really tell that everyone on campus and inside the department wants this program to be successful.
I would say it's been more encouraging rather than surprising. The other area is the feedback we have been getting from people around the (DFW) metroplex. We have been reaching out to them and it's been really encouraging to see how much progress we have made with the high school coaches and the people in the community.
MeanGreenSports.com: When you on the recruiting trail, what are you pitching to the coaches and the kids about the program?
Coach Aston: I think the first thing you sell is the university. There is so much to offer here. Education has always been a positive and one of the things that is easy to sell here is that we have so many former players that have gone on to be huge successes in many different professions. Student athletes and their parents always want to know about academics and it's just really easy to talk about them and their accomplishments.
I also think the opportunity to come and make a difference in the program. I don't like to use the word rebuild because then you don't' speak of the past. I would rather tell talk about what an impact they can have on our program.
MeanGreenSports.com: What has been the reaction of the current players, the workouts, off the court and how much have they embraced your vision?
Coach Aston: When I first got here we got a chance to get on the floor with individuals and work on some drills, and that was great. The reaction from the players has been the most positive aspect of all. I know there are going to be bumps in the road along the way, but I could not be more pleased with their responses to everything that we have asked them to do on and off the court.
MeanGreenSports.com: What is the one area this team needs to improve in?
Coach Aston: I think you have to look at defense first. Some of the defensive problems come from the inability to score because those areas are related to each other. You have to look at points given up and we have to improve in that area. The other piece which I think is the most important principal of defense is rebounding, and that is a glaring problem. Some of that is size, some of that is fundamentals. Rebounding controls an awful lot of things and that's something we are going to address every minute of every day.
MeanGreenSports.com: Last time you were in Denton was over a decade ago, what are some of the changes you have seen in the town?
Coach Aston: Oh wow, there are parts of the town that didn't even exist when I was here the first time. The thing that has struck me the most of all about Denton is that it has become its own town. When I was here the first time, it seemed like Denton was just an extension of Dallas, and you went to Dallas for entertainment. Now Denton is its own town, and it's all here! The other thing is that it seems that the town has embraced North Texas. You go around town and see people with North Texas shirts on and I don't remember that being the case.
MeanGreenSports.com: Your coaching staff, you have a former recruit, former player and a coach you have been with for a while. How much did familiarity matter when choosing the staff?
Coach Aston: I personally think that anytime you take a position the most important pieces that you put together as a head coach is your staff. I couldn't be happier with my staff right now. They have made a tremendous impact in recruiting already. Being able to bring Angela (Ortega) here from Charlotte was critical because she knows exactly how I want things done. And she's incredibly organized and she is familiar with North Texas, which is a huge plus.
Jalie (Mitchell) has that pride in the Mean Green and one of the biggest pieces you can have on your staff. I had a former player on my staff the entire time at Charlotte, and you can't put a price tag on having someone who has played for that school and carries pride in the program.
Wes (Brooks) was the piece that I thought was the biggest because we had to make up some ground in recruiting and needed someone that was really hungry to do all the things that recruiting involves now. He has really, really impressed me with his work ethic and his ability to connect to young people.
The last hiring of Erin (Floyd) was very big because she is another person that's familiar with me and won't be looking over her shoulder. She played for me and spent a year as a student assistant and is just another person on the staff who knows how we run a program. I could not be more excited that she chose to begin her coaching career with North Texas!
MeanGreenSports.com: What's the biggest challenge for this team?
Coach Aston: Probably just mental toughness, I think there is a certain toughness that you have to have to finish games. The season becomes a grind and I think the mental toughness of a team really shows through in conference play and I that's an area that if you look at scores, down the stretch of games, would be where this team needed to be a little tougher. That will happen in practice! Practice is where you create your mindset for success.
MeanGreenSports.com: If you weren't coaching what would you be doing?
Coach Aston: Coaching :)..... I couldn't tell you. I think anybody who has an answer to that probably shouldn't be coaching.
MeanGreenSports.com: If you had a chance to make up your coaching Mt. Rushmore, who would be on it?
Coach Aston: Tom Webb, my high school coach. Jody Conradt, Pat Summit, and John Wooden.