As Temple pulled out a 68-66 victory against nationally ranked South Florida on Feb. 6, Tyonna Williams watched from the bench at the Liacouras Center, suppressing her urge to jump in the game.
As a senior captain last season, Williams scored 399 points, finishing her career with 1,075 points. This season, Williams is taking a different leadership role as a graduate manager for the Owls.
“Sometimes I catch myself watching them run up and down the court and I think, ‘Dang, I wish I was out there with them,’” Williams said. “When we won the game, the first thought I had was, ‘Wow, it felt like the North Carolina State University game.’”
In the third round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament last season, Williams scored 12 points and recorded six assists to help Temple defeat NC State 80-79 in overtime in McGonigle Hall on March 26.
The Owls’ season and Williams’ career came to a close six days later, with a 66-58 overtime loss to West Virginia University in the WNIT semifinal.
After playing four seasons as an Owl, Williams wanted to stay with the team and be mentored by coach Tonya Cardoza.
“If anything, I got hungrier in college to become a coach,” Williams said. “Playing here at Temple with a lot of young squads my junior and senior year, it taught me a lot about patience and learning how to teach.”
Williams did not apply to coach another team because she wanted to stay with Temple. If Temple denied Williams the graduate manager position, she said she would have entered the criminal justice field.
In July, Williams received a phone call from Cardoza about the opportunity.
“Coach called me and said, ‘The spot is there if you want it,’” Williams said. “I answered ‘yes’ right there, but she told me to take some time and think about it overnight.”
The next day, Williams met Cardoza in her office and accepted the job.
Less than a year out of college basketball, Williams is transitioning from being a senior captain to an authoritative figure on-and-off the court.
After Williams is done getting lunch for the coaches before the start of practice, she starts drills and acts as a mediator between the coaching staff and players.
“I still look at her as a teammate,” said senior guard Erica Covile. “As an assistant, I can’t even take her serious like that.”
Covile, the lone senior this season, played three years alongside Williams. When Williams accepted the job, she texted Covile, junior guard Feyonda Fitzgerald, sophomore guard Tanaya Atkinson and junior center Safiya Martin.
“It’s basically the same, just she is not in a jersey,” Martin said of Williams’ relationship with players. “When we are in huddles, she will be the person to help you snap out of it.”
While Williams’ former teammates prepare for practices inside their locker room at the basketball facility on the third floor of Pearson Hall, Williams sits in her office—which she shares with video coordinator James Spinelli—and watches film.
With hopes of becoming a college coach one day, Williams is focused on learning as much as she can her first year.
“Even at times coach has to say, ‘Stop playing so much,’ ‘cause I joke so much with everybody,” Williams said. “I just want to learn as much as I can from this process because I know it is not easy to be a college coach.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at email@example.com.