Ray Dunne (@RayDunneBTB)
While the eyes of the women’s basketball world were fixed on Minneapolis over the weekend, Temple Athletic Director Arthur Johnson and his search committee locked in for a long day on Saturday. The group spent nearly 11 straight hours meeting with prospective head coaching candidates for the vacant Owls’ women’s head coaching job.
The process included a call earlier in the week to former Temple head coach Dawn Staley, who Johnson quizzed about the qualities to look for and some feedback on the candidates they were going to speak to. By the time Staley and her South Carolina Gamecocks raised the national championship trophy on Sunday night, Johnson had made up his mind.
Towson head coach Diane Richardson, who Staley calls “the queen of the DMV,” emerged as the committee’s choice. The 63-year-old has spent the last five seasons guiding the Tigers’ program, leading them to their first NCAA tournament berth and compiling an 80-66 record. According to her, the committee’s process was no joke.
“Let me tell you, if you ever want any investigation, any mystery solved, call the committee,” Richardson said through a laugh. “That committee was throwing questions at me like tennis serves.”
At the Liacouras Center on Wednesday morning, Temple officially announced Richardson as the Owls’ new women’s basketball coach. The former Towson head coach is tasked with both replacing the winningest coach in Temple women’s basketball history, Tonya Cardoza, and galvanizing a program that has been lackluster for the better part of the last decade.
“They didn’t bring me here to do anything new,” Richardson told reporters. “They brought me here to bring them back to the tradition of winning.”
“Some of the things that our student-athletes asked for when we met with them…someone who was caring, someone who was going to hold them accountable and someone who loves people,” Johnson said. “Coach Richardson fits all those categories.”
Diane Richardson (center) poses with members of the Temple University women's basketball team. (Photo courtesy Temple Athletics)
Her reputation as a program builder precedes her.
Towson had only ever had one 20-win season and one postseason appearance prior to her time on campus. She did both of those things twice. Through earlier stops at Maryland, George Washington and West Virginia, she’s been credited with recruiting and developing a number of WNBA players from the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area.
Though she stressed that she will continue to build the brand of Temple nationally and touted that she has been keeping an eye on Philadelphia hoops from afar for a long time, her roots in the DMV keep Temple in an important hotbed. That area has been fruitful for the program in the past, producing all-time leading scorer Mia Davis and three current players.
Richardson got her start in coaching as the head coach at Riverdale Baptist High School where she had two stints. The school later produced Temple guard Jalynn Holmes, who played there after Richardson’s time there but did spend two years playing for Richardson at Towson to start her college career.
“(Holmes) and I met separately this morning before we met the team,” Richardson said. “We talked about what the expectations are, what it’s like here at Temple and what we did before. She was on our (Colonial Athletic Association) championship team and went to the NCAA tournament with us. That’s going to be crucial with helping the younger players understand how important it is to win and some of the things they need to do to win.”
As a program, the Owls haven’t done much winning as of late. The group is 63-79 over its last five seasons and has not won an NCAA tournament game in over a decade. The team as it’s assembled is very young and will be looking to re-establish its identity in the aftermath of Davis’ career.
On the floor, Richardson’s teams move quickly. One of the first things she did was talk to the strength and conditioning staff about what it takes to play for her team, a conversation that she said generated excitement.
Defensively, it’s going to be a lot of pressing. The Tigers have averaged over 16 turnovers forced per game in each of Richardson’s five seasons at the school. She’ll look for players to pick up full court and ramp up the pressure to generate quick offense.
She’s also a self proclaimed “equal-opportunity offense coach,” evidenced by Towson having five players averaging over eight points per game last season.
“I am not a halfcourt type coach,” Richardson said. “We are going to score in five seconds…We’re going to first try to score in transition because nothing hurts your opponent more than watching you go down there and score.”
Off the court, she has the culture she is looking to instill. There are the obvious introductory presser things, talk of molding young people and helping them get to where they want to go in life. Richardson, a former student-athlete herself at Frostburg State, is looking for her team to develop habits.
Beyond the literal meaning of the word, Richardson, who spent her early career as a very successful businesswoman, showed a bit of her corporate past with an acronym tied to the word “habit.”
“That ‘H’ is for honesty, we must be honest at all times,” Richardson began. “The ‘A’ is for accountability. Accountability is very important. It's so very important that it helps to build and helps to build a culture. The ‘B’ for brand, I am really a big brand person. We want to wear the Temple logo everywhere we go so that we represent this institution in the best way possible. The ‘I’ for integrity, we must do things the right way…The ‘T’ is for teamwork.”
With the roster turnover, it may take some time to turn Temple around. She’s making a leap into a city that sent two teams into postseason play this past season and into a conference that has been dominated by the two Florida schools - South Florida and Central Florida.
Nonetheless, the standards are set at Temple. Johnson has fired three coaches in his first six months on the job. If the program doesn’t look like it's being steered in the right way, he has no problem making a change.
“I want to be in the postseason each and every year,” Richardson said. “I think we have the tools and resources to do that.”
Richardson intends on bringing Towson assistant coaches Cheyenne Curley and Myles Jackson as well as Director of Basketball Operations Jasmine Allen to Temple with her.
Temple forward Alexa Williamson has entered the transfer portal, exercising her final year of eligibility. She was a starter for the better part of the last three seasons and averaged 8.2 points per game.