Trisha Stafford-Odom knows a university can have both a success men’s and women’s basketball program. Having served as an assistant at Duke and at North Carolina, she has seen it happen first hand.
Stafford-Odom believes the same thing can be accomplished at North Carolina Central, where she was named the new women’s basketball coach Monday morning. The California native knows she can take the Lady Eagles from the cellar of the MEAC, straight to the top, alongside the successful men’s program. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t be making the move from the west coast to Durham.
“I wouldn’t get on a plane and pack up and move if that wasn’t the goal,” Stafford-Odom said.
Stafford-Odom returns to the Triangle after leading Concordia University-Irvine for three seasons. In her first head coaching gig, Stafford-Odom was 37-45, leading the Concordia Lady Eagles to their first conference title in 18 years during her second season in her home state. She takes over an N.C. Central program that finished 8-21 last season and 7-9 in the MEAC. Since making the switch to Division I, the Lady Eagles have never won a game in the MEAC tournament and have not had finished a season with a winning record.
Never miss a local story.
Stafford-Odom oversaw a program at Concordia that made the switch from NAIA to Division II. Before returning to her home state, Stafford-Odom was an assistant at Duke and UNC, making her very familiar with N.C. Central. Known as a top-notch recruiter, Stafford-Odom was on the other end of things, being lured to Durham by Eagles’ Athletic Director Ingrid Wicker McCree.
“I don’t think I have to recruit an entire roster,” Stafford-Odom said. “I think I was recruited by Dr. Wicker. In my mind she’s an excellent recruiter herself.”
Stafford-Odom met with the Lady Eagles when she was on campus recently, then spoke with several players on the phone Monday morning after she was officially named the new head coach. N.C. Central only lost three players from last season, including leading scorer Morgan Jones. One of her goals, Stafford-Odom said, was to improve the Lady Eagles offensive output. Last year N.C. Central finished last in the MEAC in scoring. Stafford-Odom, who says she already has an idea of who she wants on her staff, said the biggest challenge she expects will be changing the mindset of the players.
The Lady Eagles have struggled since joining the MEAC. Stafford-Odom, who was also an assistant at UCLA and played two years in the WNBA, will attempt to bring a winning culture to Durham, and in a hurry. On a conference call Monday afternoon, Stafford-Odom said she wants to “establish and breed championships.”
The mindset - starting from summer workouts to preseason camp - has to be that of of a champion.
“If we can tweak how people think — how much confidence they have, how much consistency, discipline — then I think we are setting the tone for how we are going to be in the future, and not just right now,” Stafford-Odom said. “I think we will definitely compete immediately in the MEAC. The goal is to win more games this year than we did last year.”
The Lady Eagles finished strong in 2016-17, winning five games in the final month of the season. However, Vanessa Taylor’s contract wasn’t renewed and Wicker McCree began a search immediately. With the success of the N.C. Central football team and the job the men’s basketball team has done under head coach LeVelle Moton, Stafford-Odom realizes she is stepping into a situation surrounded by coaches who have achieved at the university. She wants to be no different and does not shy away from that challenge.
“I’ve been hired to excel and achieve,” Stafford-Odom said. “I wouldn’t be the (coach) that I am if my mindset was to be mediocre.”