(Editors note- As women's basketball practice starts up on Friday night, this is the first in a three-part series chronicling the life and times of North Texas assistant coach Saudia Roundtree)
By Steven Bartolotta
While going back to school, Roundtree was at a crossroads in her career and life. What does she want to do? One thing she was certain was it was going to be in basketball.
That's when she picked up a copy of Spencer Johnson's book, Who Moved My Cheese?
"I read that book and it really changed me," said Roundtree. "I had to figure out what character I was on the inside, and I was the guy who was just waiting around instead of going out and trying to change my life, I was just waiting for it to happen."
Roundtree decided after talking it over with her former coach at Georgia, Andy Landers, that she would get into the coaching profession. She found a job with Morris Brown as an assistant coach and was the interm head coach in 2001-02. Roundtree was on her way. Or so she thought.
A Bumpy Start
After diving head first into coaching at Morris Brown, Roundtree caught the eye of the athletic director at North Carolina A&T during one game when the two teams met. It just so happened that they were looking for a head coach after the season, and Roundtree seemed like the perfect fit. Roundtree got the job and was the head coach at the age of 27 going into the 2002-03 season.
It all seemed too good to be true. And it was.
"I was in way over my head," said Roundtree. "I should have been an assistant coach for longer because I had no experience at all. I learned what not to do there."
Things went bad from the start for Roundtree. Her first two seasons the Aggies won just seven games each year and the team never responded to Roundtree and she knew why.
"I was really tough on the kids and they didn't understand why," said Roundtree. "It was a new generation from the one I came, from and the kids just hated me. They didn't like playing basketball anymore."
Her third season saw moderate improvement, 10-18, but it wasn't enough for either side to want to continue on.
"In the third year of my contract there we had an agreement to come back to the table and they didn't want me, and I didn't want to be there anymore so it was mutual," said Roundtree. "I'm so much better off because of my time there, I really learned a lot and you never stop growing and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things in coaching while I was there."
Roundtree, not even 30, was looking for another job.
Back In Game
It didn't take Roundtree long to get back into coaching. After North Carolina A&T, she joined up with Alabama as an assistant coach before going to UCF for a season and then taking a job with Clemson.
It was there that Roundtree worked with Shanice Stephens for the first time. After Stephens left Clemson to take the job at North Texas, Roundtree was reunited with her this past summer and brought in as the recruiting coordinator at North Texas.
"Shanice is going to be so successful here and I'm just glad that I can be part of it," said Roundtree. "I'm very comfortable here and I love working with the kids and feel like we have a great situation here."
Roundtree still has dream of getting another shot at being a head coach again. Perhaps drawing on her days as a youth, Roundtree also has what some would consider an usual goal.
"I've always wanted to be an assistant coach for a men's team," said Roundtree, giggling a bit. "I grew up playing with guys all the time when I was younger and I know it will never happen but I've thought that would be fun one day to do."
"Living On The Edge"
"If I ever write a book, that's the title," says Roundtree. In her time as a player and coach, Roundtree has never been one to shy away from a challenge or pass one up.
Through it all though, she has remained steadfast in her faith and her dedication to the game she loves.
"I don't have any regrets in my life," said Roundtree. "I'm very proud of what I accomplished but I want to give back so much because I always go back to what I had to go through as a kid. I want to try and inspire people through motivational speeches or anything I can to help them out in their life, not just basketball."
Always energetic and always smiling, Roundtree's infections personality is how she played the game. Without basketball, where would Roundtree be?
"I'd probably be in forensic science," she says. "I've also watched those TV shows late at night on crime technicians and have even thought about law enforcement, maybe the FBI."
She no longer has to live on the edge and continues to be around the game she loves, basketball.