Jackson Ready To Create Buzz

Nov. 8, 2007

SEATTLE (AP) - Soon after taking her new job in Seattle, Tia Jackson flew to Los Angeles. Then she caught a long connecting flight to Auckland, New Zealand.

After 17 hours of traveling, Washington's women's basketball coach headed from the airport to the Auckland home of Jess McCormack. Jackson chatted and looked around town some with the 6-foot-5 center and member of New Zealand's national basketball team. Then, Jackson hopped the first of two return flights home.

Going the extra mile? Jackson went 14,912 of them for a nine-hour visit -- with a prospect who had already signed with the Huskies.

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'It showed her commitment. To go around the world? Just an amazing coach,' McCormack said as Washington prepared to begin its first season with Jackson.

A 1995 graduate of Iowa who has never been a head coach, Jackson made the long trip to reassure McCormack. Washington had fired coach June Daugherty, who had recruited the promising teen, in March following 11 seasons and nine postseason appearances at the UW.

'The most unexpected thing was having to recruit my own players all over again,' said Jackson, known as a whiz recruiter in her previous two stints at Duke and UCLA.

All six of the freshmen in Daugherty's heralded recruiting class stayed.

Jackson, 35, is here and Daugherty is now at downtrodden Washington State because UW athletic director Todd Turner said Washington's program lacked 'buzz' following a one-and-done appearance in the NCAA tournament in March. The UW gave Jackson a five-year contract with an annual base salary of $180,000, plus incentives that could push the pay above $300,000 per year.

It's a sizable investment in a first-time head coach, who also happens to make Washington the only major college program with blacks as head coaches in football, men's basketball and women's hoops.

And the Huskies are buzzing about Jackson entering Saturday's season opener at Kansas State. They love her hard-driving practices in which they run the lines of the court for mistakes. They love her frenetic style of play.

'We want to run,' Jackson said. 'We really, REALLY want to run.'

And they love her commitment.

'She's just an energetic and positive person. I want to be around her,' said senior forward Andrea Plouffe. 'She gives off good vibes.'

Senior point guard Emily Florence was jolted when Jackson and her staff replaced the status quo of Daugherty. So the vibes weren't all good all the time.

'The hardest thing for us as seniors, those of us who have been around, you get used to the same things, the same plays, what the coaches want from you. Then, in your last year, it's like 'Whoa!' They bring in somebody new,' said Florence, the team's floor leader who led the Pac-10 in steals last season and had its second-best ratio of assists to turnovers.

'I love our new coaching staff. But it's like we're all freshmen because I don't know any of the plays that they don't know. It's basically like we are all rookies out there. But it's fun.'

That unfamiliarity -- along with injuries -- has already showed. Washington committed 26 turnovers Tuesday in a humbling home loss to Seattle Pacific, a Division II team, in an exhibition game.

Jackson called it 'a wakeup call.'

There may be others. Nine of the 13 players are freshmen and sophomores. Jackson has named only Florence and McCormack as starters.

Florence had arthroscopic knee surgery in September but said she is 'full-go.' Senior Dominique Banks was going to start at guard but will sit out the season because of recurring leg problems. Plouffe still has knee tendinitis. Laura McLellan, a sophomore forward, is recovering from offseason knee surgery. Sophomore guard Sara Mosiman just returned to practice last month after surgery to repair a stress fracture in her leg.

Then there's the schedule. The Huskies open with five road games, including Monday at Gonzaga, which made its first NCAA tournament last season. Big Ten powers Ohio State and Purdue come to Hec Edmundson Pavilion before the conference season.

Stanford, the Pac-10 favorite yet again, is ranked seventh nationally. Arizona State is 12th and California is No. 13.

Washington was picked to finish fifth in the conference by a Pac-10 media panel. The conference has sent four or more teams into the NCAA tournament in each of the last four seasons.

When asked what Huskies' fans should expect from this start of a new era, Jackson said: 'That we are going to be exciting. That we are going to stimulate them.'

With a postseason berth?

'That's the plan,' she said, smiling.

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