By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
TULSA, Okla. —
Megan Byford can joke the best thing about being a full-time women’s basketball assistant at the University of Tulsa is not having to go to class anymore.
“I’m real happy to be done with that,’’ said Byford with a laugh. “I’ve been very blessed to be able to get the education I received through basketball. Not too many people can say they have two master’s, a bachelor’s and an associate’s degree and they didn’t have to pay for any of it. Basketball provided me an opportunity not only to better myself, but to get a top class education.’’
At 26, Byford is at TU after serving as a graduate assistant at Pittsburg (Kan.) State and Oklahoma State, her alma mater. She was a volunteer assistant at NOC Enid from 2010-11. Byford was a third-team All-American at NOC Enid.
Byford was hired by third-year TU coach Matlida Mossman after receiving her master’s degree in education from OSU in June.
“I’ve been blessed about an opportunity to work with such an amazing staff,’’ Byford said.
She got to know Mossman through former OSU teammate Taylor Hardiman, who played for Mossman at Norman High School.
“Everyone knows everybody in coaching through mutual connections and friends,’’ Byford said.
Byford has an impressive track record in her short coaching career.
• At NOC Enid, the Lady Jets went to the NJCAA Division I final four.
• At Pitt State, the Gorillas went to the NCAA Division II elite eight.
• At OSU, the Cowgirls advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament and gave Duke a major scare.
“I’ve learned something every step of the way,’’ Byford said. “It’s been a positive for me to have success at every level and been a part of a great team.’’
Tulsa is the defending Conference USA champion.
“The girls are hungry to continue to grow the program and reach the next level of success,’’ Byford said.
Byford is grateful to NOC Enid coach Scott Morris for her first coaching opportunity. He invited her to become a volunteer assistant after an opportunity for Byford to play overseas didn’t work out.
“It was a great experience because it got me back to my roots,’’ Byford said. “It was fun to give back to a program that gave me my start. I learned a lot from coach Morris and I felt fortunate to have him as a mentor.’’
She said it was good for her to learn at the junior college level.
“Those kids were really special,’’ Byford said. “I was fortunate to get the juco experience. I don’t like things handed to me. At the junior college level you earn what you get because you don’t have a big budget. You value things more. Kids value those scholarships. I loved getting back there to learn under coach Morris and get back to my roots.’’
She saw the last three years as a learning experience first. As a full-time assistant, it’s like going out to the real world.
“You definitely have a bigger workload and higher expectations,’’ she said. “Instead of helping with a drill, you’re running the drill. It’s a lot more hands on.’’
Byford is prepared to go out recruiting on the road for the first time next week.
“I’m excited about that,’’ she said. “That’s one of the biggest differences between now and being a grad assistant. I get to evaluate players and see what is out there. Women’s basketball is going great now. Now I get to find the next generation of TU players and get a chance for us to continue to grow and go in the direction we’re striving for.’’
Her youth is a major asset in recruiting.
“I can still relate to the kids because I’m close to their age,’’ Byford said. “I have brothers close to their age and they keep me in the loop. I just got through that experience. I can relate to what they are going through and what’s going on in their head.’’
Women’s basketball coaches recently were given the OK to be able to work with players for two hours per week for skill instruction during the summer.
“That’s been nice,’’ Byford said. “We get to work on stuff that we may not have time to do during the regular season or the preseason. It’s given me a chance to get to know the players and the players to know me and access what they need to work on.’’
Byford maintains a strong relationship with OSU coach Jim Littell, who she played for with the Cowgirls and coached with last season.
“He’s still my mentor,’’ Byford said. “I still ask him questions all the time.’’
Byford still thinks of the late Cowgirls coach Kurt Budke, who she played for at OSU. She was one of those who spoke at a memorial service after Budke was killed in a plane crash in November 2011.
“He’ll always be a part of my coaching tree,’’ Byford said. “He is part of who I am as a coach. He had a big impact on my life. I picked up something from every coach that I played for.’’