UConn grad Morgan Valley making an impact in coaching world
During Valley's sophomore season at UConn she was a member of perhaps the greatest team in women's college basketball history but due to her ongoing battle with plantar fasciitis left Valley in a position of doing more watching than playing during that magical 2001-02 season.
After being a member of three national championship teams at UConn, Valley stayed on for a season as a student assistant. The rest, as they say is history.
After working on the staffs at Holy Cross, Towson, New Hampshire, UMass and Virginia Tech, she is in the midst of her first season on Mike Neighbors' staff at Washington.
"From sophomore year I knew that was what I wanted to do and I have just been working at it ever since," Valley said.
Valley, a Vermont native, came to UConn as the second-highest rated player in the five-member recruiting class headlined by Diana Taurasi. Injuries and especially the foot issues caused by plantar fasciitis resulted in Valley averaging just 11.4 minutes in her four seasons at UConn.
"I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason so maybe having those injuries, I saw it from a different perspective," Valley said. "It was something I wanted to do and it was a blessing in disguise."
In the coaching world, networking is key. Washington assistant coach Adia Barnes played with Valley's former UConn teammate Sue Bird in the WNBA and Barnes suggested to Neighbors that Valley would be a candidate worth considering.
"He gave me a call and said 'would you be interested,'" Valley said. "I knew Seattle was far but I didn't know it was this far. When you actually live out west and you are from the east it is a big difference and transition. It has been great, the coaching staff, the players, it has been a great place to be."
Washington is in the Final Four for the first time and will play Syracuse in the second national semifinal.
"It has been unbelievable the entire year," Valley said. "Hopefully we can keep it rolling. I watched them on film before I took the job and they are just gifted, there are a bunch of good players. Obviously Kelsey (Plum) was an All-American, every player has done what they are supposed to do and it has worked out so far."
Valley has been working with the post players so naturally when she was hired, she was eager to introduce herself to the post players including Chantel Osahor who averaged 17.3 points and 16.7 rebounds as Washington won at Maryland, at Kentucky and then beat Stanford to punch a ticket to the Final Four.
"It was awkward," Osahor said of the first meeting with Valley. "I don't talk very much so she came to me, I had my head down and she said 'hi, I'm Morgan.' I said 'hi, Coach.'"
It didn't take long for Valley to make an impact on her new players.
"She is amazing," Washington center Katie Collier said. "She has been the turning point for this program. I think she brings so much life, energy and knowledge to our team. She has been here before so we know that, we listen to her and when she says something she is all ears. Since Coach Valley has been here it has been a huge blessing for us, she is the only one who has been here and has given us so much knowledge and insight on everything."
Osahor called Valley "our energy giver" and so much more.
"I have never been around anybody not just coach or player who has more passion and love for the game," Osahor said. "Because of her energy, she is a big part of why we are here. She has three rings and you would never know that, she is so humble.
"She gives you so much confidence when she tells you that you can do it, she is all about us and wants what it best for us. She will do anything to help us succeed."
Valley's sister Ashley is at the Final Four as are former teammates Sue Bird, Maria Conlon and of course Shea Ralph, who is an assistant coach at UConn.
"Maria, Sue, Carla (Berube, who has her Tufts team in the Division III title game) all of those guys are coming to the game, they said bring me a t-shirt, we'll wear it under our UConn stuff so in the second (game) we will have some East Coast Huskies cheering for the West Coast Huskies, it will be pretty cool."
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