Catching Up With Head Coach Ronald Hughey
June 30, 2014
With the start of summer officially here and the 2014-15 women's basketball season just around the corner, UHCougars.com sat down with new University of Houston Women's Basketball head coach Ronald Hughey to see what he's been up to during his first two months on the job.
Hughey enters his first season as a head coach after spending the previous 10 years as an assistant coach at the Division I level, including stops at Florida State, Texas, Rutgers, UCF, South Carolina, and South Carolina State.
UHCougars.com: You've been the head coach at the University of Houston for just over two months now. Talk about some of the things you've tried to implement during your short time here.
Coach Hughey: The first thing we've tried to do as a program, and it really has nothing to do with basketball, is to just reestablish a positive relationship with the community. We want to let these people know how excited we are to be here.
When I was hiring my staff, I was looking for energetic people who all wanted the same thing. I needed all these people to be driven, and they are. No one has to hold each other's hand. We're all in this together and we all share the same vision, which is bringing the University of Houston Women's Basketball program back to the top.
We've had a great time getting to know the players, doing workouts, taking part in various activities within the community. I mean for me personally though, I've just been trying to call everyone, whether it's other coaches, potential recruits, or whatever. When you're so excited about where you work, it's pretty easy to start establishing relationships.
UHCougars.com: The 2014-15 roster has an interesting balance of experience and youth, with nine returners and six newcomers, but in reality they're all new for you. What's it been like getting to know the players so far?
Coach Hughey: I haven't been able to totally meet the new incoming kids yet, but I'll tell you what, this group of nine returners is special. This is the first group I've been able to coach and teach with strictly my own ideas and philosophies.
Each one of them has a different personality. Some are really silly and some are still a little nervous and shy, but I think it's been fun for all of us so far. For me it's been really cool to see them perform so well in the community. It's been fun to see them in an environment away from the basketball court and see them open up to others.
UHCougars.com: You talked about it already when you mentioned the community service, but this team has really been doing a lot of different off-the-court things since you've been here.
Coach Hughey: Yeah, we have. The one thing we want to do is be selfless in life. I want the kids to understand that they're not and shouldn't be entitled to anything. We want to give more than we receive. I joke all the time with them, that even when we're praying, we're still asking the lord what he/she can do for us, rather than what can we do for others. If you do the right thing and give back to others, good things will naturally come back to you.
UHCougars.com: By now a lot of people have seen or heard the phrase "Chasing Greatness" when it comes to defining your program. Whether it's you speaking to a large group, or seeing the phrase printed on t-shirts or social media. This is a phrase you really believe in and have tried to hammer home with your players. What exactly does "Chasing Greatness" mean and why is it so important to you?
Coach Hughey: Yeah, "Chasing Greatness" really isn't limited to just the basketball court. It's a way of life. It's about understanding that you are attacking the day, you're winning the day, and you're there for someone other than yourself. You're just trying to be the best you can be at everything you do. It's all about instilling phrases in your head like "I can, I must, I will".
There are going to be some days that are tougher than others, but on those days it's even more important to be at your best. "Good" is not our friend. "Average", yeah, we're going to be allergic to that word. We want to be great, nothing less. We want to be great on the court, and off the court. It's really that simple. That's what we're chasing.
"Chasing Greatness" is a mindset. It's a mindset of a winning culture. It's a mindset of a winning program.
UHCougars.com: Has there been a player that has jumped out and surprised you so far early on?
Coach Hughey: They've all really been on the same level so far. As a staff, we're still waiting for one to kind of jump out, but I think they're all still a little bit nervous and trying to figure us out. There is still a lot of learning going on, really on both sides. All of them are going hard and giving us everything they have. And most importantly, they're getting better. That's what we want at the end of the day.
UHCougars.com: The NCAA implemented a new rule last year that allows coaches to work with the student-athletes in small groups during the spring. How big has that been for you, especially considering this is your first head-coaching job?
Coach Hughey: The rule change is huge. Just having the opportunity come in and learn what these kids are about, and vise versa, is so big. Before this new rule, as a coach you would have to get all your philosophies and coaching strategies out there in August, which really isn't even close to enough time when you talk about starting a season in early November.
Even though we can only take the kids in small groups during this time, there is still a lot we can work on. With these groups, they now know what we expect out of them and it's much easier for them to keep up with their exercises and drills on their own time.
UHCougars.com: Despite not being able to work with your entire team in the summer, and just being limited to small groups, what kinds of things are you able to accomplish?
Coach Hughey: All the fundamentals: shooting, dribbling, passing, making layups. All of that can be worked on. I just want them to go hard. It takes no talent to show maximum effort. It takes no talent to have the right attitude.
That's what we're trying to do right now, just build a strong foundation. When you set out to build a wall, it doesn't just appear. You have to build it brick by brick, and that's what we're doing here. We're just trying to build this thing back up brick by brick.
UHCougars.com: Sometimes people forget this is your very first head-coaching job. What's been the biggest difference transitioning from assistant coach to head coach, at least so far?
Coach Hughey: There have been two things that have really been different. The first is just delegating things. That's something very new to me. I've always been that guy, that if you give me a task I'm going to go do it and then come back asking for more. So it's a little weird to now have people around me that are coming to me for tasks and things to do.
Secondly, just realizing that parents have trusted me with their kids. Husbands and wives have trusted me with their spouses, so I just have to be the best me I can be every single day to make sure this is a place where everyone wants to be. I just feel like that part of this job is a really underrated responsibility that sometimes people don't realize.
UHCougars.com: When you're not on the basketball court, what are some other things you like to do for fun?
Coach Hughey: I love watching movies. I rented a few this past weekend, but I only got to finish one, and then it was back to basketball. Seriously though, I love my job. I actually enjoy watching film and consistently trying to find ways we can improve as a program. That's fun for me.
I love working out, whether it's running the steps in the morning or lifting weights. I also love eating. If you look around my office you'll see all kinds of snacks and drinks. I'm always snacking on something. Honestly, other than that, it's all about basketball for me. I absolutely love it.
UHCougars.com: People that know your story know it's been long journey for you to get to this point and earn this head-coaching job. Take us back a little bit. How did you get into coaching and when did you know this is what you wanted to do for a career?
Coach Hughey: I kind of stumbled upon this profession honestly. I was living at home working in construction, pouring concrete, resurfacing floors and driveways, things like that. One day I got a call from my old high school coach, Tim Gates, and he asked me to come give back and coach at my old high school. So I came back and volunteered as an assistant coach and I just got the bug for coaching.
After working under him for one year at the high school level, he offered to get me a position coaching at the local middle school. I looked at him and basically said "wait, are you crazy? I don't want to coach middle school!" He basically told me that if I didn't take that job, I would never know how to be a teacher or learn the fundamentals. So long story short, I took that job an we ended up winning just one game my first year and then won the entire championship my second year without losing a game. I just kept going from there.
UHCougars.com: Why was the University of Houston the place for you when it came to looking for that first head coaching opportunity?
Coach Hughey: Honestly from the moment I got here, I knew this was the place for me. There's so much basketball talent in and around the city of Houston. I mean you just look at the basketball history here and you see that. The city is just growing so fast, the weather is fantastic, but really just Texas as a whole just screams sports. You look at schools like Texas, Baylor, and Texas A&M. I mean there's no reason why Houston can't be one of those schools. Mark my words, just give us a couple of years, and we'll be up there competing with those guys.
UHCougars.com: You mentioned the top-notch competition within the state of Texas, but what about the American Athletic Conference? Some of the best basketball in the nation is played in this league. Can you talk about that level of competition for a little bit?
Coach Hughey: Well you're absolutely right. You look at Connecticut for example, that's probably the best program in the history of our game, and we get to play them every single year. The conference as a whole is really looking up and we're looking forward to being tested and competing against every one of these schools. If you want to be the best, you have to play the best, and that's what we're going to be doing on a nightly basis in this conference.
UHCougars.com: What will it take for Houston as a program to climb toward the top of the American Athletic Conference?
Coach Hughey: We just need to be consistent in everything we do. We need to chase greatness on a daily basis and win every day. It's great to talk about doing all of that stuff, but we need to actually go out and do it. It's easy to talk about being great when you've won six straight games and you're sitting above that .500 mark, but what about when you've lost three or four in a row and it's not going well? Those are the times where you really figure out what you're made of and you find a way to get through it. No matter how good or bad it gets, there is always room for improvement. That's the mentality we have to have.
UHCougars.com: What will be considered a successful 2014-15 season for your group?
Coach Hughey: Obviously everyone wants to win a lot of games, but I think there's more to it than that. Success will be measured not only with what happens on the court, but what goes on off the court as well. We want to win in the classroom, win out in the community, and in our personal lives. If we do that, I think people will see that translate into wins on the basketball court.
When you talk about next season from a pure basketball standpoint though, I think the main thing we want to do is just be competitive. We want people to be proud to support us and know that when we step out on the basketball court, we're going to leave it all out there with no regrets. We want to be back at the top, and it's not going to happen in one day, but if we stay hungry and continue to chase greatness, the pieces will fall into place.
2014 FOOTBALL SEASON TICKETS
University of Houston alumni from the last five years (2010-14) can purchase season tickets for just $125 (upper levels) and $175 (lower level) in specially-designated Young Alumni sections with a multiplier of four times donations to Cougar Pride giving levels for the first five years after graduation.
Houston opens the 2014 season at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 29, when it hosts UTSA in the first ever game in the Houston Football Stadium.
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