SAN ANTONIO — Deidra Johnson officially joined the women’s basketball coaching staff this summer after a successful stint as an assistant coach at Marshall. Johnson recently sat down with goUTSA.com to discuss her first months on the job.
You’ve been on the job for almost two months now. What have your first few weeks been like?
“The first few weeks have been great. The transition has been pretty smooth. We jumped right into recruiting when I got here, which is obviously something I am very familiar with. We just got right on the road and did a lot of recruiting and now we’re settling in and trying to get recruits in on visits. Everything’s been going pretty smooth.”
You’re originally from Arkansas. How nice is it to get back in this part of the country?
“I am very excited because the past couple of years I was at Marshall (Huntington, W.Va.), which is about a 14-hour drive (to go home) and now it’s about an eight-hour drive. That makes it even more exciting for my parents, family and friends to be able to attend some games and watch me coach.”
Before you were hired, what were your impressions of UTSA Athletics as a whole and specifically the women’s basketball program?
“I am very connected with Coach Blair, so I know of the success that she’s had here. As far as UTSA Athletics as a whole, there’s a lot of excitement going on around here. Everyone in the country knows about the 56,000 fans we had for the first football game. Moving to the WAC this year and then to Conference USA next year is even more exciting for me, because the past couple of years I was in Conference USA. It’s a great conference that is full of tremendous athletes. The recruiting process is going to be even more grinding, but it’s going to be exciting to get out there and bring some great kids to UTSA that are going to compete a higher level.”
How did you get into coaching and who are some of the coaches that have influenced you along the way?
“One of my main influences has been from Louis Whorton (Arkansas-Fort Smith) who was my JUCO coach. He is a very tough guy, who emphasizes discipline, but he also cared about the kids and that always stuck with me. Another is Amy Williams who just took over at South Dakota. She was the assistant coach that recruited me to Oklahoma State and she was a big part in my transition to there and I’ve always admired her for that. I had aspirations to continue my playing career after graduating college, but I tore my ACL. That set me back a bit so I started out behind a desk at a teen center, which was a pretty rough eight-hour day when you’re used to being hands-on and working with people. I always wanted to coach and when I got right into it, that was it. No looking back.”
What was the greatest experience from your playing or coaching career?
“As a player, one of my most memorable experiences was at Oklahoma State. My first year there we lost to Texas Tech, 95-45, and that was the first time we played them in Lubbock. The next season when they came to Stillwater, we took them to two overtimes and beat them, 88-87. So that turnaround from one year to the next was certainly memorable. As far as coaching, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one experience. At each school you get so attached and emotionally invested in the kids. You always remember the group of players that you brought in and it ends up feeling like they’re your own kids.”
What are some goals you have for the team this season?
“I would like to see the team have a dynamic season. They came from an injury prone season last year where things were up and down and I went through the same thing my first year at Marshall. We won nine games and we were able to turn it around the very next year for 16 wins and we probably came within 10-to-13 points away from having a 20-win season. I think this team is very capable of having a big turnaround. This is a veteran team that has everything it needs in order to be successful.”