Keitha Adams Transformed UTEP Women’s Basketball
April 20th, 2001 seems like an eternity ago. George W. Bush was three months into his presidency, the Twin Towers still stood in lower Manhattan, Bridget Jones Diary was about to be #1 in the box office, and Keitha Adams had just been hired as the 7th coach in the history of the UTEP women’s basketball program.
At that time, the Miners had only five winning seasons in the previous 25 years, and the program had never won more than 18 games in a season. Adams knew that the transformation of turning UTEP into a perennial mid major power would take time. She won 56 games from 2001-2006, but Director of Athletics Bob Stull kept his commitment to Adams and the program. That decision paid off in a big way. The Miners won 50 games over the next two seasons, including a 28-4 record and the program’s first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2008. The Miners made the most of their opportunity when they defeated Western Kentucky in the first round before falling to Stanford. Adams would be named C-USA Coach of the Year that season, and she would go on to win that award again in 2012 and 2016. She is the only coach in league history to win the award three different times.
As she built the Miners into a dominant basketball team, her list of accomplishments started to pile up.
*four postseason bids (NCAA in 2012 and 2008; WNIT 2016 and 2014)
*four championships (2008, 2012, and 2016 C-USA regular season, plus 2012 C-USA tournament)
*won 29+ games at least three times in the past five years
*cracked the top-25 poll in two seasons (2007-08, 2015-16)
*a single-season record 94,832 fans in 2014, including back to back sellouts in WNIT
As Adams transformed the Miners, her personality endeared herself to El Paso and the UTEP fan base. She was a huge fan of Don Haskins and the two became very close during her first seven years with the program. Often, they would meet in his truck and go to a restaurant to talk basketball, while Coach Haskins would draw up plays for her on napkins. When her team went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 2008, Haskins invited her team to his house for a cookout and he had a rose for every player.
Adams had no trouble selling her women’s basketball program to the El Paso community. She often had her team stay after home games and go into the crowd to sign autographs and mingle with Miner fans. Her dream was to sell out the Don Haskins Center, something that seemed impossible at first. However, in 2014 UTEP had back-to-back WNIT sellouts for the first time in the history of the program. Women’s basketball was the toughest ticket in town, and the team sold out their WNIT championship game in less than an hour.
Over the 16 years that Adams has spent coaching UTEP, most fans wondered how she had not left for a bigger school. Truth is she had opportunities to leave for other coaching jobs, but Adams wanted to wait for the right situation. That happened earlier today when Wichita State announced they had hired Keitha to take over their women’s basketball program.
— Go Shockers (@GoShockers) March 30, 2017
UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull issued this statement tonight after Wichita State made it official that they had hired Adams.”Keitha was one of my first hires and has been with us for 16 years. She has done an absolutely unbelievable job. We hate to see her leave, but understand the desire to go home. We can’t thank her enough for everything she has done for UTEP Athletics and the women’s basketball program. She has enjoyed unprecedented success and has graduated all of her players. You won’t find a more quality person anywhere. The Wichita community will fall in love with her, just like El Paso has. She is a great coach and a great friend and we wish her the best.”
With the Shockers, Adams goes back home to Kansas where she starred in high school and also got her coaching start. Wichita State is rumored to be joining the American Athletic Conference in the next few seasons, which would be a big step up for their women’s basketball program. Late tonight, Adams made her first public statement about leaving UTEP for Wichita State.
“First off I want to thank Dr. Natalicio and Bob Stull for the opportunity and support in my tenure at UTEP. I want to thank my coaches for your efforts and hard work in our journey together. To all of the support staff and numerous individuals who helped our program succeed, thank you!! To all of the UTEP players, I’m so grateful and thankful to have you in my life. To the Miner fans, I will always cherish our memories and moments in the Don Haskins Center. I will always hold dear your support to me and our players. UTEP took me away from my home in Kansas. El Paso became my new home for 16 years. It is only for a unique and special opportunity that I would ever leave UTEP. Wichita State University is 36 miles from my hometown. It’s a special opportunity for me to share my passion for this game with my family and friends. I will always cheer for the Miners, I will always love El Paso. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. God Bless and Go Miners!!”
Thank you Keitha for 16 great years and many memories that Miner fans will never forget.