Eastern Kentucky University introduced the new women’s basketball head coach Samantha Williams on April 3 at the EKU Center for the Arts.
Williams is a familiar face to the game of basketball. The Louisville native grew up around basketball and has spent part of her coaching career in Kentucky.
“Having grown up in this state and playing high school basketball, I know how important basketball is to this state,” Williams said.
Williams was a longtime assistant coach at the University of Louisville, going back to 2011. While coaching the Cardinals, Williams helped the team reach the Final Four twice and the National Championship game in 2013. The Cardinals also made an Elite 8 appearance and advanced to the Sweet 16 four times while Williams roamed the sidelines with Louisville head coach Jeff Walz.
In a press release, Walz said, “I am thrilled that Sam is getting this well-deserved opportunity to become the head coach at Eastern Kentucky University. She has worked very hard at Louisville over the past eight years and is a big part of our success.”
Walz and EKU athletic director Stephen Lochmueller addressed her previous success and the importance of that, as she takes over a women’s basketball program that struggled last season, only winning two games.
“Sam will take her knowledge and experience of being a member of two Final Four teams to EKU,” Walz said. “I appreciate Sam’s loyalty to me, our team and to the University of Louisville. It is now her turn and her time to run her own program. I have no doubt she will be an immediate impact hire, and you can trust that we will be cheering her on.”
During Williams’s introduction ceremony on Wednesday, she addressed what she has learned from Walz and how she will use those skills as the next head coach at EKU.
“Seeing what [Walz] did in terms of promoting the game, getting out into the community and being accessible to the fans — I think that is something I take with me immediately,” Williams said.
Williams said she is excited to rebuild the women’s basketball program and hopes for a lot of fan support this season. She addressed the excitement in Richmond for EKU athletics.
“Eastern Kentucky is a sleeping giant with the administration’s support and resources... I consider Richmond to be the best college town in the Ohio Valley Conference,” Williams said.
Williams is coming into EKU with the goal of playing fast and building a winning mentality around the women’s basketball program.
“You will see us be prepared,” Williams said.
Lochmueller and the athletic department knew going into the hiring process who they wanted as the next women’s basketball coach.
“We needed an individual who played the game, and coach (Williams) has played the game at the highest levels. We needed an individual who was passionate about the game and teaching the game. We had to have someone who understood recruiting and the Kentucky connection,” Lochmueller said.
Williams checked all of the boxes for Lochmueller and EKU athletics, he said.
Before coaching at Louisville, Williams was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Duke. She was at Duke from 2007-11. She helped the Blue Devils capture two ACC regular season championships, two ACC Tournament titles and make two appearances in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. Williams’s basketball background runs even further back. Her coaching career began as an assistant at Butler during the 1998-99 season.
In 2002-03, she served as an assistant coach at Columbus State University.
During the 2003-04 season, she was an assistant at Auburn before spending three seasons (2004-07) as an assistant and recruiting coordinator at DePaul. Williams was on staff at DePaul during a stretch that included three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and the program’s first NCAA Sweet 16 trip in 2006.
Williams played at Auburn, and while she played college basketball, she played for the U.S. Junior National Team that won the bronze medal at the R. William Jones Cup in Taipei, Taiwan.
Williams’s playing career didn’t stop there. She played one season of professional basketball in the American Basketball League with the San Jose Lasers from 1996-97.
“We have hired the right person at the right time to do what is in front of us… rebuild our women’s basketball program,” Lochmueller said.