Family Values, Early Coaching Lessons Influenced USF Women’s Basketball Coach Jose Fernandez

Jose Fernandez doesn’t have to look beyond family photos to see his hero. Do this often. He keeps his mother Julia, who lives in Colorado, up to date on his life and that of his family.

It was Julia’s late parents who inspired her son a lot. In fact they still do. They arrived in Miami from Cuba decades ago and built a new life from the ground up, not just a sporting goods business.

“I think this is an incredible country that gives opportunities to so many people if they work and take advantage of the opportunities,” said Fernandez, whose father died. “My grandparents and parents came here and had nothing.”

Still, they provided a lot.

The women’s basketball coach at the University of South Florida had nothing when she started her career. What he did have was his grandparents’ work ethic and his parents’ dedication, which came in handy when young Fernandez was climbing the basketball coaching ladder.

Six years of traversing interstates and back roads to move from one basketball camp to another, enough empty cups and pizza boxes to fill the recycling depot made for my messy travel diary I threw away.

“I got in the car the last week of May and didn’t get back to Miami until the last week of August.” would not have had a dime in it.”

Although his wallet was light on US dollars and heavy on traffic violations, Fernandez’s dedication to the sport was unwavering. How else could he have put together a career that has led to his 400+ wins in his last 23 years at USF, 30 years of coaching?

Oh, maybe it’s not too much work. If things had been so strenuous, Fernandez would probably have sat and enjoyed his favorite red wine instead of getting ready for the next practice, the next game. He knows his red wine.

“I’m going to keep doing this until I wake up in the morning and it’s more like work than fun,” he said as he sat courtside at the Bulls’ home court, the Yungling Center, after practice last week. “Now after the game I go home and do the same routine. I watch the game twice. I watch it and then I look at all the possessions.”

Fernandez, 51, who is Tonya’s husband and father to starting members Sidney, Alex, Taylor, Briana and Brooke, will remain the face of the Bulls for years if he wants to.

He has been a coach, teacher, mentor and friend of student-athletes since his promotion from assistant and recruiting coordinator to top position in November 2000. When Fernandez arrived at USF, he didn’t have the long term in mind to join a team that had scored under 500 in nine of the past 11 seasons.

“The idea at the time was to sign a good class, win a few games, turn it around, and maybe move on and get another job. It’s a great opportunity in a Division I program where there aren’t many.”

Now it is. When Fernandez arrived in Tampa, the Bulls played for free at his 10,000-seat recreation facility adjacent to the Yuengling Center. Courtside seats? Well, perhaps if the bleachers were fully pulled out.

More than 20 years later, the program boasts eight NCAA appearances, more than 20 championships in 11 seasons, and 36 All-Conference selections. He will head into Tuesday night’s game against East Carolina, where he needs two wins to bypass Connecticut’s Geno Auriema (118) for the most wins in an American Athletic Conference game. am. (The Huskies left the AAC for a revamped Big East following the 2019-20 season).

Indeed, Fernandez’s watch is a visual reminder of the Bulls’ success, hanging proudly in the arena. But what the coach is most proud of is something the fans don’t see.

When asked about the post-graduation success the former Bulls have achieved, he said, “It’s the biggest thing for me.” The life lessons we taught you and the accountability and friendships you cultivated will help them regardless of whether they continue to succeed as basketball players abroad or in the WNBA. I think that’s what’s most rewarding and that’s why you do it.It’s special to follow them both professionally and personally.”

Courtney Williams has had a lot of success as a professional basketball player in the WNBA, most recently with Athletes Unlimited. The second-most all-time leading scorer in USF history (2,304 points) is not just about her memories of playing for Fernandez, but what he means to her today, seven years after her last college game. I cherish something.

“My bond with Coach Fernandez is that I know he’s always been the one to have my back, and he would check in on me and say, ‘Hey Court, when you can get down[to Tampa]. I know you can always let me know. call. We love hanging out with you and we take you out to dinner,” she said from her home in Connecticut. “It’s a great bond. That’s him. He’s always there for me.” I’ll be there.”

Fernandez, who played high school hoops in Miami and earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from the FIU, began his coaching career as a teenage student assistant on Miami-Dade Community College (now Miami-Dade College) Kendall’s men’s team. bottom. For the next ten years, Fernandez served as an assistant and head his coach for men and women at the college, high school and AAU levels. He arrived at USF after serving as a women’s assistant at Division II Barry College at Miami Shores.

Miami-Dade was a key figure in young Fernandez’s life.Cesar Odio was the head coach of the college and later recruited Fernandez as an assistant in Barry’s men’s program.He won 266 games in 17 seasons with Barry. Odio passed away in 2016 at the young age of 58.

“I respected him, just the way he dealt with people and cared about people,” he said.

It’s that level of care that Fernandez has put into his craft. Ten years after playing his final season with USF, it still resonates with Andrea Smith. Community How Fernandez treated her when Smith, who played her two her seasons with the Bulls after transferring from his college, missed the entire 2011-12 season after rupturing her ACL and both meniscus. Remember what you supported?

“When I was down with my injury, I really needed someone in the corner,” said Smith, who has been a police officer in his hometown of Lakeland, about 40 miles east of Tampa, for the past three years. He was one of them.He never pressured me to go back on the court or told me how much the team needed me.He never once told me that I was 100% ready. Whenever I felt ready, he told me it was time for me to come back in. He made sure I didn’t miss my rehab appointments. checked.”

Sure, games matter. People like Williams and Smith, who averaged 16.4 points in his two seasons with the Bulls, also continue to push Fernandez forward and make every day count.

“I still enjoy it and am still very motivated by what I do every day,” he said. I can.”

Raise a red glass to it.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *