Williams Begins Journey as Husker Coach
Lincoln - New Nebraska Head Coach Amy Williams hit the ground running on her first official day as the Husker women's basketball coach on Tuesday, April 12.
Williams, who met the media at her introductory press conference at the Hendricks Training Complex, spent more than an hour talking to the media, posing for photos and reconnecting with old friends at Nebraska's practice home.
Following the media sessions, she mingled with family and friends old and new at an athletic department reception at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
"What an incredibly exciting day for me and my family," Williams said. "I’m humbled and honored to be returning to the University of Nebraska as the head women’s basketball coach. I’m eager to continue to build on the rich tradition that is Husker women’s basketball."
Williams, who was a four-year letterwinner at Nebraska as Amy Gusso from 1995 to 1998, said she has been overwhelmed by support from Husker teammates, coaches and fans over the past 48 hours.
"I would like to thank all of my former Husker teammates and the other Husker alum that have reached out to me the past couple days," Williams said. "I am so looking forward to reconnecting when things settle just a little bit. It just shows how far reaching this program is and what a special place it is to have all of those former Huskers reaching out."
Williams, who won the past two Summit League Coach-of-the-Year awards while leading South Dakota to three Summit League titles in her four seasons in Vermillion, told the Husker women's basketball players in attendance that she was ready to start building the next women's basketball championship team at Nebraska.
"I can’t wait to join this journey with you guys and begin building the relationships and the steps that it’s going to take for us to be able to make this the most enjoyable experience of your life. We’re going to compete for championships, we’re going to do it the right way, and most of all we’re going to do it together. And again, I could not be more excited to be back at the University of Nebraska. It’s a great day, just like any day, to be a Husker. Go Big Red.
A full transcript of the press conference, including her formal introduction by Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst follows.
Nebraska Director of Athletics
Today is a great day to be a Husker, as we welcome home one of our own. We are thrilled to have found an exceptional person, coach and Nebraska women’s basketball letterwinner as our next head coach.
We welcome Amy Williams and her husband Lloyd, and her daughters Kennadi and Bentli with us today. It’s also a great pleasure to have her parents Tim and Kathy Gusso. Our student-athletes are at the core of everything we do, and we are blessed with some of the nation's best coaches to teach and lead them.
Today we add another outstanding coach and teacher to our university. Amy Gusso Williams comes from a family of educators, athletes and coaches. She played for the Huskers from 1994 to 1998 and graduated with degrees, plural, in biology and mathematics. Her coaching career has taken her to Kearney (Neb.), San Antonio (Texas), Stillwater (Okla.), Tulsa (Okla.), Claremore (Okla.) and Vermillion (S.D.).
As a head coach, Amy has built a program from scratch into a national contender, led teams to multiple conference championships and recently won, about 10 days ago, the 2016 WNIT Championship. It has become very clear that she not only possesses the intelligence, expertise, and passion to lead us to Big Ten championships but she shares the same core values that drive our department, our university and the state. Amy has already met with our current student-athletes and has been very busy recruiting the next group of Huskers. She has received an incredibly positive and warm welcome - which is not a surprise, you’ll find that out very quickly about her.
Quick story, when we started talking about the opportunity, I said “Tell me about your playing days,” and she said “Well, I was apart of the 30/30 club.” I thought wow, she must’ve been one heck of a player. I said “tell me more about that,” and she said “if we were up by 30 or down by 30 I might get about 30 seconds of playing time. I thought that was pretty cool, I think your dad said that to you. There will be many opportunities for Nebraskans to welcome Amy and her wonderful family in the coming months and we all hope that you get to know her, she’s a wonderful person. A special lady and a great addition to the Husker family. With that, it is now my pleasure to introduce Nebraska’s head women’s basketball coach, Amy Williams.
Nebraska Head Coach
Thanks, Shawn. What an incredibly exciting day for me and my family. I’m humbled and honored to be returning to the University of Nebraska as the head women’s basketball coach. I’m eager to continue to build on the rich tradition that is Husker women’s basketball. I’d like to start by thanking President Hank Bounds, Chancellor Harvey Perlman, new Chancellor Ronnie Green and Shawn Eichorst for giving me this incredible opportunity. To continue real briefly with some of the thank you’s, I want to start but thanking my co-head coach in life Lloyd, my two amazing daughters for their unwavering support.
I want to thank my parents, Tim and Kathy Gusso, they made the trip from Spearfish (S.D.) down here late last night. They’re both educators. I grew up on the sidelines at my dad’s practices. I learned pretty much everything I know about the game of basketball from him, and I’m so grateful for all of those experiences - except for the day that you kicked me out of practice. I am thankful to my mom who has instilled in me one of the most important things that has led to all of the success that I’ve been able to experience and that is the importance of surrounding yourself with great people.
I want to make sure I thank the University of South Dakota, President Jim Abbott, David Sailor, David Herbster, Dave Williams, the staff and most of all the student-athletes that I was blessed to coach at USD.
I would like to thank all of my former Husker teammates and the other Husker alum that have reached out to me the past couple days. I promise I’m not screening you, and I am so looking forward to reconnecting when things settle just a little bit. It just shows how far reaching this program is and what a special place it is to have all of those former Huskers reaching out. I’d like to say thank you to all of my former coaches, colleagues and mentors that have helped shape my career path and shape who I am today.
The University of Nebraska exudes excellence, I felt that as a student-athlete, and I am so excited to have the opportunity to offer that to young women. Pride and support, that’s the way I would describe the fans of the University of Nebraska. It gave me an indescribable feeling of pride as a student-athlete when I got to wear that Husker jersey across my chest, and I’m so excited to have the opportunity to return and be a part of this again.
My biggest excitement today lies in the prospect of getting the chance to know several of the young women that are standing here in the back of the room today. I can’t wait to join this journey with you guys and begin building the relationships and the steps that it’s going to take for us to be able to make this the most enjoyable experience of your life. We’re going to compete for championships, we’re going do it the right way, and most of all we’re going to do it together. And again, I could not be more excited to be back at the University of Nebraska. It’s a great day, just like any day, to be a Husker. Go Big Red.
On if her new job feels like a whirlwind
“It’s going to be a little bit crazy for a little while. Lots of people I am so excited and eager to reach out and reconnect with and connect with, so it is going to be a whirlwind for a little while but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
On the process of how she was hired
“I was contacted last week and had an opportunity to meet with Shawn on Thursday. Since then, everything has just been clicking and moving in the right direction.”
On what kind of job offer it would’ve taken for her to leave South Dakota
“I was very comfortable, and to be honest it was going to take something extremely special to make me turn my attention away, and there is no question that the University of Nebraska qualifies. I have incredibly fond memories of this place, and I am so excited. It is certainly the perfect fit for me to return home and have this opportunity.”
On what the conversation with her former players was like when she announced she was leaving
“I am so fortunate and blessed to have coached extremely quality young women of great character, and while that is a difficult transition for any student-athlete, they were incredibly supportive and understanding of the opportunity in front of me and just really excited for me and my family.”
On what she learned most as a player at Nebraska that she applies to her coaching
“I came to the University of Nebraska as a walk-on student-athlete and scratched and clawed and fought and gave everything I had inside of me. Eventually I earned a scholarship and eventually I worked my way out of that 30/30 club. It is something that has been instilled in me, that blue collar, bring your lunch pail to work every day and find a way to just outwork people. That is something that I definitely feel like was instilled in me at the University of Nebraska and something that still remains there today.”
On how she brought South Dakota to win the WNIT and how that situation translates to her coming in and taking over the Nebraska team
“I think there is no question that it has always served me well that life is filled with some ups and downs and some disappointments, and the quicker that you can refocus yourself toward new goals after disappointments, the better. I just really, really like to keep marching forward toward the future, and I think that is what our entire program is excited to do here at Nebraska.”
On what her message was to the Nebraska athletes
“I had just an incredible opportunity to meet with the team. My most basic message is that I can’t wait to join this journey with them. We are anxious to be able to get to know each other and begin that trust-building process. I think that they are just as excited as I am to get that process started.”
On what it was like to coach in Pinnacle Bank Arena in the past
“It was incredible. What a neat experience to be back here and coaching on the sideline. I told Rachel [Theriot] that night that we kind of ran into a Mack truck that game. It wasn’t such a pretty outcome for me on the other sideline. But it was just incredible for me to be back here and back home and I really enjoyed that opportunity. Ironically, that was the game we talked about last night with the team. The shot clocks kind of went on a hiatus for us for a little while, so it delayed the game and it was kind of a fun memory.”
On what process she is going through to put together her staff
“I am anxious. I mentioned a few minutes ago that one of the best things I have been blessed with is an ability to surround myself with incredible people, and I think the most important thing in evaluating that is what complements me well and what our team needs and the type of people that the young women in this program deserve to have as mentors and deserve to have. We want to make sure that everybody on our team and in our program can pull from somebody on the staff and really relate to them, and that is the number one thing I will consider as we put those pieces in place.”
On if she was following the Nebraska program since she has been gone and how she feels about returning to coach
“Absolutely, a dream come true for me to come back to Nebraska. The pride I felt as a student-athlete has never left. I have watched this program just with pride and very vested interest my entire coaching career. I have just been excited through the championships and excited through all the highs that the program has experienced, and I could not be any more excited to return for the journey.”
On how she would compare the feeling of returning to her home state in South Dakota to coach and returning to her alma mater to coach
“It is so important to have that sense of family and being home. For me, the University of South Dakota provided that and Nebraska even more so. That feeling of home, that comfort, just knowing that the great people around you feel like family. I have just been blessed with unique opportunities to be in situations that are home.”
On if she feels any pressure to keep up the recent success of Nebraska’s women’s basketball program
“I feel pressure. I don’t think feeling pressure is a bad thing. Pressure has allowed me to be successful in everything that I have ever attempted. Certainly I feel like the young women in this program deserve for us to be successful and win, so I feel pressure for them to be able to win and experience that championship culture. This program ultimately belongs to the people of Nebraska, and we feel pressure to win for them. The fans deserve that, the players deserve that, and we certainly feel that pressure and it is a good thing.”
On how she plans to balance out her desire to reach out to blue collar players while having such high-tech facilities
“I think that is a unique situation, but to consistently be mentoring our players about the fact that we want to provide them with all of the amenities to be supportive in their journey and to make their experience the most memorable. But with that comes a price and that is incredible work ethic and that desire to lay it all on the line. Something that we will talk about on a regular basis is just finding that balance.”