Camryn Whitaker is Kentucky born and raised, but her coaching career has taken her to Tennessee, Missouri, and Ohio. As an Assistant Coach at the University of Dayton, Whitaker helped lead the Flyers to two Atlantic 10 Regular Season Championships and three NCAA Tournament berths, including a run to the 2014-15 Elite 8. After a season as an Assistant Coach at the University of Kentucky, where she assisted the program to the Sweet 16 of the 2015-16 NCAA Tournament, the Head Coaching position at Northern Kentucky University became available. Due to her in-state roots, as well as NKU’s close proximity to the University of Dayton, the position at NKU was the perfect place for Whitaker to begin her career as a Head Coach. In May, Whitaker was named NKU’s new Head Women’s Basketball Coach and couldn’t be happier to be “home”.
What inspired you to become a basketball coach?
I grew up in a coaching family. My dad has been a high school baseball coach for 40 years and coached girl’s basketball for 11 years, where he coached me. My grandfather was a high school boy’s basketball coach so it’s in my blood. I always knew I wanted to coach but it wasn’t until my junior year of college that I truly decided. I tore my ACL and had the opportunity to sit on the sideline and see the game from a Coach’s perspective. At that point, I became motivated to work my way up to this point.
What did you learn while coaching at Dayton, one of the nation’s premier mid-major programs, that you have instilled in your Northern Kentucky program?
At Dayton, I learned the importance of player development and coaching-detail. We were fortunate to have very skilled players, but as good as they were, they got better throughout the season and during my three years there.
At NKU, we still do individual workouts two mornings a week and have 20-minute pre-practice sessions every day to work on our player’s individual skills. Our coaches demand “the little things” and I’ve already seen a lot of improvement from our players.
Take us through the process and emotion up until you got the call from Northern Kentucky that you were being offered the Head Coaching position?
The interview process was very quick for me because of the timing. I interviewed in Lexington with the Athletic Director and Assistant Athletic Director for about three hours. They had to conduct other interviews so I think the waiting was the worst part. About three days later, I was called and asked to do an on-campus interview. After my interview, I stayed in Cincinnati with a friend because I knew I was one of two candidates that would be hired and the team was leaving for summer break the following day. That was the longest night of my life, anticipating a call one way or the other. Our Athletic Director called me that night and offered me the job, which I said yes without hesitation. It was almost like recruiting a top level player and landing the recruit, which I’m sure everyone in this business can relate to. I knew this was a perfect fit for me based on the history of success with the program, it was close to home, the family atmosphere, and there’s a great administration who supports women’s basketball. When I was offered the job, I felt relieved, excited, and a little overwhelmed with emotion.
What has been the assessment of your team since practice began in October and what are your expectations for your program this year?
I always expect to win and so does our team. That’s one thing I can tell you about them. They want to get it done. We have a very tight knit group that truly cares about each other.
As far as early expectations, we want to be a balanced scoring team that can compete night in and night out.
Now that you’ve been a Head Coach for six months, what advice do you have for someone who wants to make the transition from Assistant Coach to Head Coach?
My advice is to keep your nose clean, always be honest, and out work people. I never wanted my boss to leave the office after me or get there before me. As an assistant, it’s your job to prove that you are so valuable that they need you on staff. I think that’s what helped me get here.
Written originally for CollegeInsider.com on November 28, 2016.