Competitor, hall of famer, motivator, role model, teacher, winner.
While any of those words can easily be used when describing UTEP women's basketball head coach Keitha Adams, one thing is certain.
Her accomplishments since being named the seventh head coach in program history on April 20, 2001, are simply amazing.
Adams, who received a six-year contract extension following the Miners' run to the finals of the 2014 WNIT, has achieved plenty.
She has delivered three league championships, including claiming both the 2012 Conference USA regular season and tournament title, guided UTEP into a pair of NCAA Tournaments and a runner-up showing in the 2014 WNIT while changing the fortunes of the program for good. She isn't going anywhere, either, thanks to the aforementioned contract extension that will keep her at the school for the forseeabble future.
All five 20+ win campaigns, including an unprecedented three straight, six of the seven seasons of at least 18 victories and nine of the 12 campaigns with at least 16 triumphs all time at UTEP are courtesy of Adams. Furthermore, every player who has exhausted her eligibility at UTEP during her tenure has graduated.
Adams, a two-time C-USA Coach of the Year (2008 & 2012) while also being a finalist for the national distinction once, has compiled a mark of 235-165 to easily surpass the individual she supplanted (Sandra Rushing; 123-175, 11 years) as the all-times wins leader in program history. Her squad has finished at .500 or better nine times, including eight winning seasons, to surpass the amount (seven) of such campaigns in the 27 years before.
When you truly take into the consideration the lack of a winning tradition for the program prior to Adams, the appreciation for the success she's attained increases tenfold. The Miners had never won a conference crown-let alone finish better than third- advanced beyond the semifinals of a league tournament nor earned a bid for the NCAA Tournament.
UTEP has become a well-known name both regionally and nationally, with it making 17 appearances in nationally-televised games (11-6 record in games) under Adams' leadership. It was nationally ranked for the final six weeks of the 2007-08 campaign, climbing as high as 18th/23rd before finishing 23rd/25th.
The Miners also received votes in both major polls in 2008-09, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14. UTEP has been mentioned in the preseason poll three times, most recently garnering a trio of votes in 2012-13.
Including the record of 29-8 last year, the Miners are now 206-108 over the past 10 years. The effort obliterates the prior standard at the school for a decade-long stretch (115-155 from 1990-91 through 1999-2000).
UTEP has emerged as one of the best programs in the state of Texas. The Miners have the third-most wins in the Lonestar state during the past eight years (180-76), trailing only recent national champions (Baylor, 247-41 and Texas A&M, 216-66).
The Miners have also proven to be elite in regards to fellow C-USA schools. They stand at 180-76 since 2006-07, which is the second-best record in the league for any member institution (including new members for 2013-14 season) in that timeframe.
UTEP is responsible for two of the three teams in C-USA history to have at least 15 league wins and 28 overall victories in a single year.
The sequence started with the then first 20-win season in program history, with the Miners racking up 22 triumphs in 2006-07. The ensuing campaign would be even more magical. The Miners were 28-4, including an unprecedented 16-0 in Conference USA play to claim the program's first league title. It marked the second conference crown by a women's program at the school, and the 28 victories equaled the 1966 Texas Western NCAA Championship team.
Adams was chosen as the C-USA Coach of the Year and was one of eight finalists for the national honor, while Jareica Hughes earned the first of her two straight C-USA Player of the Year distinctions.
It was a season of streaks, with the Miners winning a school and C-USA record 23 straight games from Dec. 8-March 8. When the run was finally halted in the league championship title game, it stood as the longest active stretch in the country.
UTEP, which had never even received votes prior to Adams' tenure, climbed to as high as No. 18 while being nationally ranked in both the ESPN/USA Today and Associated Press polls over the final six weeks of the season.
It earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in exhilarating fashion, with ESPN cameras covering the selection show live from El Paso as the Miners' name came up on the board. UTEP dismantled Western Kentucky, 92-60, in the first round of the tournament before bowing out to eventual national runner-up Stanford in the round of 32.
There was a fitting conclusion to the season, with Natasha Lacy and Izabela Piekarska becoming the first players in school history to be selected in the WNBA draft. Lacy was tabbed by Detroit in the second round with the 28th overall pick while Piekarska was chosen by Sacramento during the third round at the 43rd overall spot.
Adams has overseen the development of some of the best players to ever don a uniform for the Orange and Blue. Twenty of the 23 major individual career records at the school are held by players who were mentored by Adams. Additionally, seven of the 10 members of UTEP's 1,000-point club were coached by Adams.
She has shown an innate ability to produce professional-caliber players, with 19 players she has coached in her career going on to star at the next level. Included among them are Lacy of the L.A. Sparks, and European standouts Hughes, Kasia Krezel, Izabela Piekarska, Claudia Porras and Izabela Piekarska.
She has also impacted the international game at the highest level, with Noni Wharemate representing New Zealand at the 2008 Olympic Summer Games.
The efforts of the Orange and Blue have not gone unnoticed in the Sun City, as Adams has renewed interest in the once dormant program. The Miners have placed among the top-50 in attendance nationally in three straight years, including rating 15th for total attendance in 2014. UTEP attracted a single-season record 94,832 in 2014, helped by back-to-back sellouts (12,222) during the WNIT.
UTEP has rewarded the fans with a mark of 118-25 over the past seven years, aided by the single-campaign record of 22-3 in 2014. It enters the 2014-15 season in the midst of a school-record eight straight years with 10+ victories, each of which has featured at least 12.
Success on the basketball court is only one part of Adams' coaching philosophy. More importantly, Adams stresses academics. Every student-athlete who has exhausted her eligibility with Adams has earned a degree.
Adams has also aided in the development of the student-athletes in terms of real life, with her ground-breaking mentoring program affording the Miners with tremendous role models. The program has been so successful that the UTEP Athletics department started its own version of a mentoring group for female student-athletes in Jan. 2008.
UTEP set or equaled 18 different single-season school records during an outstanding 2013-14 season. The Miners recorded an unprecedented third straight and the fifth 20-plus win season at the school and finishing with a school and Conference USA record-tying 29 victories.
They also set program standards for assists (542), defensive rebounds (1029), double-digit wins (21), field-goals (955) and attempts (2353),free throws (697) and attempts (964), games (37), home games (25), home wins (22), offensive rebounds (577), points (2825), points per game (76.4), rebounds (1606), steals (355), three pointers (218) and attempts (697).
While those numbers, impressive as they are, don't even begin to tell to story of the 2013-14 season. That season of the story is what happened over a span of 16 days when the city of El Paso fell in love Adams' team during a magical run in the 2014 WNIT.
The Orange and Blue played all six contests in the Sun City, drawing a total of 52,108 fans. Buoying that number were capacity crowds in both the semifinal and final. UTEP also attracted then school record crowds against Colorado (8,234) and Washington (10,227). The championship contest vs. Rutgers sold out in less than two hours, a WNIT record.
The Miners downed Arkansas State, 74-64, in the first round (3/21) while toppling Saint Mary's, 76-64, in the round of 32 (3/24). UTEP then posted back-to-back wins against Pacific 12 teams, knocking off Colorado, 68-60, in Sweet 16 (3/28) and Washington, 70-63, in the Elite 8 (3/31). The Miners then bounced South Dakota State, 63-60, in the Final Four (4/2) before facing the Scarlet Knights in the championship. UTEP trailed by as many as 18 points in the second half before mounting a rally to take a late lead only to fall in heartbreaking fashion, 56-54.
Other notable wins on the year included posted the largest margin of victory in school history (49 points) in a 92-43 conquest of Northern Arizona (11/22/13), while topping Kansas State (84-39) on Nov. 16 for the third-biggest win vs. a Division I foe (45 points) on Nov. 16.
Kayla Thornton was the catalyst for the season by becoming the first Miner to average a double-double (19.5 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per contest) while earning 2014 Associated Press Honorable-Mention All-America honors. Thornton was also tabbed a first-team All C-USA honoree and was voted to the league's five-member All-Defensive squad. Jenzel Nash also took home hardware by becoming the third Miner in the past four years to secure the C-USA Sixth Player of the Year award.
Adams delivered a masterful coaching performance during the 2012-13 campaign. UTEP finished 22-10 & advanced to the 2013 Conference USA Semifinals in spite of having lost three key players to torn ACLs. Projected starter Jenzel Nash (exhibition vs. St. Mary's, 11/3) & starting center Kristine Vitola (vs. Arizona State, 11/18) were lost early.
Adams adjusted & the squad surged out at 17-3, including 5-2 within C-USA play. Sixth played Saidah Zuberi Allen tore her ACL at Tulane (2/7), and it was a devastating blow that left the Miners with only 10 scholarship players. UTEP compiled a mark of 5-7 the rest of the way, though it did show resolve by winning a pair of contests at the C-USA tournament.
UTEP was 3-0 on the year against squads from power conferences. It was 3-35 previously all time in such games. The Miners bested Pacific 12 members Arizona State (60-54, 11/18/12) & Arizona (64-53, 11/23/12) while also toppling Kansas State on the road (52-50, 12/16/12).
Anete Steinberga (first team) & Kayla Thornton (second team) earned All-Conference USA accolades while Kelli Willingham secured a spot on the C-USA All-Academic team for a second straight year.
The Miners had a historic campaign in 2011-12, setting both the school (men's) & C-USA single-season record for wins by finishing 29-4. The four losses were by a combined 15 points.
UTEP won both the 2012 C-USA regular-season and tournament championship. The tournament crown was the first in program history while it marked the second regular-season championship at the school. The Miners earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, battling hard before falling to nationally-ranked Penn State (11/12), 85-77, in the first round.
The 15-1 mark in league play resulted in a .938 winning percentage, the third best all time in C-USA. UTEP also enjoyed separate winning streaks of at least 10 games, including a school-standard 10-0 start to the year. Other single-season records set included blocked shots (197), games played (33), rebounding margin (+9.5), scoring defense (54.2), scoring margin (+13.4), double-digit wins (21), road wins (11), wins by at least 20 points (10) and overall wins (29).
Gloria Brown was voted first-team All-C-USA, a member of the all-defensive team, named the C-USA Sixth Player of the Year and also selected as the 2012 C-USA Tournament Championship MVP.
Thornton was tabbed second-team All-C-USA. UTEP showed tremendous resiliency during the 2010-11 season, never giving up despite the loss of four key players to injury and several heartbreaking defeats. A single-season school record 12 of the 14 defeats on the year were by single digits, including pushing No. 22 Houston to the break before falling 68-64 in the C-USA tournament.
Adams helped oversee the development of transfer Brown, who won two of the six major C-USA awards. Brown was tabbed as the 2011 C-USA Newcomer of the Year while also being voted as the league's Sixth Player of the Year.
UTEP compiled a record of 16-16 in 2009-10, including a victory over rival Rice in the opening round of the C-USA tournament. Other highlights on the year were being invited to participate in the prestigious preseason WNIT, Hughes garnering all-conference accolades and Anete Steinberga landing on the All-Freshman team.
The Miners took care of business with a mark of 18-12 in 2008-09, and came within a game of repeating as C-USA champions. It earned the No. 2 spot in the league championship while Hughes once again was named the C-USA Player of the Year.
While the 2007-08 season is one of the most magnificent in program history, the Miners enjoyed a terrific campaign in 2006-07. UTEP set then school standards for wins (22) and fewest losses (eight). UTEP burst out of the gates at 11-1, before carrying the momentum into conference play.
UTEP -- which was tabbed to finish 10th out of 12 teams in the preseason coaches' poll -- exceeded expectations by winning a then school record-matching 10 league games en route to tying for fourth place. Included among those triumphs were the first three conference tilts, marking the Miners' then first 3-0 start in league play.
UTEP racked up a school-standard breaking 16 home victories, which included a then program best 13 consecutive wins at one point. They also took care of business on the road, securing five wins to equal the then second-most in school history.
The Miners turned some heads nationally by receiving votes in the Associated Press top-25 poll for the first time in school history. Helping realize that was UTEP stringing together 10 straight triumphs, also at the time a program first.
The squad was very good at both ends of the court, with UTEP setting school records to that point for assists (510), points scored (2,063) and steals (343) while checking in second for blocked shots (134), three-pointers made (168) and turnovers forced (628).
Two of Adams' players received postseason accolades. Hughes was named both the C-USA Freshman and Newcomer of the Year, becoming just the third player in UTEP history to be so honored. She was voted onto the five-member all-league defensive and rookie teams, as well as being tabbed to the all conference third team.
Fellow classmate Timika Williams joined Hughes on the league's all-freshman team. Her selection made UTEP the only member institution to have multiple players on the squad.
Adams' team registered 14 wins during the 2005-06 season, the then fifth-highest total in program annals. The squad was once again strong in the Don, racking up nine wins compared to five losses.
Her 2004-05 team was one of the youngest in the conference, with underclassmen accounting for nine of the 14 players. Nonetheless, UTEP earned 12 victories and won nine games at home for the second consecutive season.
In Adams' third year, the Miners had the tallest team in school history and won 16 games, 10 Western Athletic Conference games and finished 32nd in the nation in scoring defense at 58.1 ppg. Additionally, UTEP held a school-record six opponents under 45 points.
In 2002-03, she had a second team All-WAC selection and two players chosen for the WAC All-Newcomer team. The Miners improved on their victory total by seven and set the then school record with 418 assists.
In her first year at UTEP, Adams mentored second team all-league and all-newcomer Kimya Murray.
Adams came to UTEP after several successful years as head and assistant coach at Independence Community College in Independence, Kan.
At Independence C.C., Adams was the head coach for five seasons and guided the Lady Pirates to a 127-37 record, including back-to-back Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference titles in 1999-00 and 2000-01. Her teams also combined for a 35-1 conference record over her final two seasons.
In 2000-01, she paced the Lady Pirates to a 31-2 mark, the conference title and was named the KJCCC Eastern Division Coach of the Year. Her team also led the nation, averaging 94.0 points per game, and she coached the conference's freshman of the year. Independence ended the regular season rated fifth in the NJCAA poll.
During the 1999-2000 season Adams led Independence C.C. to a 28-5 record and her first conference crown. She also took her Lady Pirate squad deep into the Regional Tournament.
In her first three seasons as head coach, Adams' teams won 22, 24 and 22 games respectively and advanced to the Regional Tournament in each of those seasons.
A tireless recruiter, Adams has driven throughout the United States and made several international connections to find her talent. While at Independence, Adams honed her athletes into all-conference, All-American and Academic All-American caliber players. Included in the bunch were 22 all-KJCCC selections and five NJCAA All-Americans.
Adams also had an impressive track record of sending her student-athletes on to play at four-year schools. Fifteen of her former players went on to play NCAA Division I basketball, including two in the SEC, two in the Big 12, one in the ACC, three in the WAC and one in Conference USA. Svetlana Volnaya, who played at Virginia, was chosen in the third round by the Detroit Shock in the 2001 WNBA Draft.
While at Independence, four of her teams had cumulative grade point averages of 3.20 or better. The 1995-96 team was the NJCAA Academic Team of the Year after posting a 3.59 average. In 1996-97, her team was second in the nation with a team average of 3.29, while her team was fourth in 1997-98 (3.26).
Adams was an assistant coach at Independence C.C. for two seasons (1994-96) prior to being elevated to head coach. As the Lady Pirates' top assistant and recruiting coordinator, she helped the team fashion a 34-4 mark in 1995-96 and finish as the national runner-up at the NJCAA Tournament, limiting opponents to 57.4 points per game, a school record.
She also served as men's and women's tennis coach from 1994-95 at Independence. Prior to joining the collegiate ranks, Adams coached basketball, softball, volleyball and track and field at Winfield High School in Winfield, Kan.
She was also an assistant basketball coach at Belle Plaine (Kan.) H.S., from 1987-89. A native of Oxford, Kan., Adams graduated with a degree in health, physical education and recreation from Southwestern College in 1989.
Adams was Oxford High School's all-time leading scorer and earned all-state honors as a prep. Her jersey was retired in 1986.
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