SEATTLE — There was a time early last season when the members of the University of Washington women’s basketball team got together and found a common goal.
Let’s win for Coach J.
It appears that the Huskies have done enough.
Athletic director Scott Woodward announced Tuesday that head coach Tia Jackson will be back next year, despite a third consecutive losing season.
“We have been very pleased with the improvement of the team this year,” Woodward said in a statement released through the school. “They have played hard and gotten better each game. Coach Jackson has done a terrific job with this team and we think she has a bright future at the University of Washington.”
The Huskies (12-16 overall, 7-11 in the Pac-10 Conference) finished sixth in the conference for the third consecutive year but suffered more Pac-10 losses this season than any previous UW women’s team. Jackson’s three-year record of 33-56 came during the worst three-year run in school history.
This is the third of a five-year contract Jackson signed in 2007, and the school would have had to compensate her had she been let go. The Associated Press reported that Jackson’s contract pays her $180,000 annually.
Jackson was not available for comment after Woodward’s announcement, but earlier in the day she said that she has not thought about her job security this season.
“I never think about it until I’m asked,” she said early Tuesday afternoon, an hour before Woodward first told The Associated Press that she would be brought back in 2010-11. “I tend to approach things pretty consistently. What I expect of my players is what I expect of myself first, and that’s to stay focused on the task at hand.”
The Huskies, who play Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament on Thursday, have been in a state of coaching flux for most of Jackson’s tenure. Five players have left the program under her watch, including four from one class. Several of them cited Jackson’s demanding coaching style as a reason for their transfers.
But those who have stuck with Jackson admit that they’ve been playing for her job since early last season.
“During that time, especially, we really felt like we were playing for her,” senior Sami Whitcomb said Tuesday afternoon. “There was just so much talk about our record, the losing streak, the coaching, all of that.
“I don’t know if it played a huge role this year (but) there are certain players that need that who are definitely playing for her. There are other players who are just focused on the game, so it’s not really an issue. But I think there are definitely players who are playing for the coaching staff and wanting to win for them to keep them around.”
Junior Sarah Morton, a point guard from Monroe, is one of just two recruits from the six-member freshman class of 2007 who are still at UW. She said that keeping Jackson at UW has been a big motivation.
“We’re definitely inspired playing for her,” Morton said Tuesday, before the announcement was made. “I’ve been with her for almost four years now, and I love her as a coach, so I want her to stick around.”
Morton added that it has been hard to hear outsiders question the coach’s tactics over the years.
“I tried to not really read the blogs or read anything that’s going to be negative because it’s not going to help anything,” Morton said. “I feel like if you’re not on this team and understanding what we’re going through, it’s kind of hard to make a judgment about Coach J.”
The Huskies were picked to finished 10th in the Pac-10 this year, yet they won four of their first five conference games, closed out the season with three consecutive wins, and tied for sixth.
“There were a few games that kind of got away from us,” Jackson said Tuesday when asked to assess the Huskies’ 2009-10 season. “I’ve never been a fan of predictions … I don’t have that gift. I have always said that we would like to see progress every game; I think we’ve done that. And for us to finish four or five slots higher than we were predicted says a lot about the growth this year.”
Apparently, it was enough for Woodward.