Nov. 25, 2011
By Mark Janssen
K-State Sports Extra
So what exactly is the role of an associate head coach? Say, a coach like Kamie Ethridge, who has sat beside Deb Patterson for each of her first 15 years with the Kansas State women’s basketball program.
“If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years is that head coaches need loyalty in my position and the knowledge that they have someone who has their back,” said Ethridge. “You have a working relationship where you can still be opinionated with different ideas, but also the knowledge of the importance of coming together for a unified voice and philosophy.”
She said that included overall personal conduct, team discipline along with X-and-O’s. In Ethridge, Patterson knows she has that right person sitting to her side.
“It was an unbelievable coup to get coach Ethridge into this program,” said Patterson, who was an assistant with Ethridge at Vanderbilt before coming to K-State in 1996-97. “She came here with one of the great basketball minds out of college where she was one of the best point guards to ever play the game in a championships program. She not only had national experience, but had world experience and talent, and was a tremendous teacher.”
As a player at the University of Texas from 1983-86, Ethridge led her 1986 team to a national title with a perfect 34-0 record, which was the first such season of perfection in NCAA Division I history. During her career, she also was on two NCAA Elite Eight teams, and one that advanced to the Sweet 16. A two-time Kodak All-American, Ethridge also has a Wade Trophy, the Broderick Cup and the Naismith Player of the Year Award on her resume.
“That was 100 years ago,” Ethridge laughed when asked if the K-State players of today know of her past court excellence. “I’m guessing they don’t know, or hardly care.”
Laughing again, she said, “We use Shalee (Lehning) as an example here and some of our young players don’t even remember her. The players today don’t view you as a player, but what they see is your tenacity, passion and drive on the court.”
It’s a drive used as a player to earn positions in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, the Texas Women’s Athletics Hall of Honor, and the Texas Women’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Ethridge was also on the gold-medal winning 1988 USA Olympic team and the 1987 Pan American gold-medal winning team just to touch on her international experiences.
After a two-year career in the Italian Professional League, Ethridge started her coaching career at Northern Illinois in 1989 where she was first introduced to Patterson, who was a fulltime assistant.
Later, it was Ethridge who first ended up at Vanderbilt as an assistant in 1990-91, followed by Patterson making the move to Vandy from 1992-93 through 1995-96 as an assistant.
“She had the intensity that you look for in a quality coach,” said Patterson. “She’s one that if I stepped away from the program, she could run it in every respect … every respect. Her ability to X and O and scout a team is absolutely phenomenal.”
Ethridge, who was recently named as one of the Top 25 assistant coaches by CollegeInsider.com, laughs at the notion that she is always on the same page with her leader.
“Oh, we butt heads on a million things, but we’ve been around each other long enough that it’s never threatening or disrupting to the program,” said Ethridge. “My job is to always communicate a unified voice to our team.”
That includes all areas of the program, including game planning for an opponent.
“Kamie does her own, and it’s always as detailed as I’ve ever seen,” said Patterson when it comes to scouting reports. “I do the same thing and then it’s something that just evolves. I may argue with her for a long period of time if I have doubts, but in the end both of us want to put players in a position to play to their strengths in every game.”
Once the game begins, Ethridge says there’s a “… constant chatter, at times too much on my part.” She adds, “You need to let the head coach have space, but at the same time a thought on something you feel might work. But during the game coaches go by feel or by gut, but at times you still need to be in their ear on what you think about something.”
Today, Ethridge is into her 16th season at K-State as Patterson’s lead assistant/associate coach. She says she would like a program of her own someday, but is not one who is always in search.
“The one thing that I do not apologize for is to do the best job I can possibly do where I am right now,” said Ethridge, who has helped to mold 90 Academic All-Big 12 selections (most in the league), 38 All-Big 12 honorees, nine Associated Press All-America selections, five Academic All-America recipients and four future WNBA players. “Where I am, I’m all there. I’m not out looking for that next job. I’m not sure that’s how you get ahead in this profession, but that’s just who I am.”
Ethridge said that there has been mid-major interest shown in more years than not, but adds, “A lot of years there aren’t any jobs out there you would want to pursue.”
But if Ethridge found one to her liking, Patterson said, “She’s had a labor of love at Kansas State. She has played such a huge role in our success, but in a flick of an eye she could run any BCS program out there.”
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