New women’s basketball head coach is Kansas’s own Keitha Adams


Matt Crow

Wichita State women’s head coach Keitha Adams talks to a player during the game against Oklahoma Baptist.

Wichita State’s new women’s basketball head coach Keitha Adams is happy to be home.

After 16 years of coaching at The University of Texas at El Paso, Adams is back where it all began.

Adams grew up in Oxford, Kansas, a small town about 40 miles south of Wichita.

“My dad was an elementary teacher and both my parents drove school buses,” Adams said. “I grew up understanding the importance of education and academics.”

Being back in Kansas means seeing a lot of familiar faces, Adams said. Her first coaching job was at Winfield High School.

“This was a unique opportunity for me to come back home and take on a new challenge,” Adams said. “I love Kansas. I love sunflowers. I grew up here.”

Home is where Adams learned work ethic and community pride. Home is where Adams started her basketball career. Home is where Adams began a career coaching basketball. Home is bluegrass music, too.

When she’s not on the court, Adams said she enjoys playing the guitar. She grew up going to the bluegrass festival with her father in Winfield, Kansas.

“My dad was a great guitar player, so that’s what made me start playing it after he passed,” Adams said.

For Adams, Kansas is where it all started. It’s not her first time in Koch Arena, either. She once coached at Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas, where she led her team to the Region VI Championship “right here in Koch Arena,” she said.

“I’ve been in Koch Arena and actually been a part of being on the floor and coaching back in the junior college days.”

Adams said she believes she was in Texas for 16 years for a reason.

She also believes she is back in Kansas for a reason.

“I’m just trusting the good lord upstairs that this is part of his plan,” Adams said. “I’ve been where I’m supposed to be, and now I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

Adams left UTEP as the all-time-winningest coach in program history.

“It’s always time for change,” Adams said. “Had a great run, great experience. Nothing stays the same forever.”

Adams called herself a people’s person, a trait she said will help bring stability to a women’s basketball program that has seen a rocky recent history.

Former head coach Jody Adams-Birch, who coached at WSU from 2008 to 2017, oversaw a turbulent time for the women’s basketball program. Nine players left the women’s basketball program before the end of Adams-Birch’s first season, citing objections to her coaching style.

Four players quit following the 2014-15 season, the team’s third straight season that ended in the NCAA Tournament.

The departures sparked an investigation into the program. After 38 people associated with the team were interviewed by the university, changes were made to the program. The changes called for players and coaches to work with sports psychologists and for players to communicate better with department administrators.

“I’ve come in here with an approach of being respectful of everyone from the past,” Adams said. “We are going to respect all former players that have come here, all former coaches that have been here before me.”

“We’re just really trying to work hard in moving forward in a positive way with one another.”

Adams said her ultimate goal is to help those that she coaches achieve their own goals.

“The kids I coach, that’s my legacy in life,” Adams said. “When I’m retired and I look back, it’s going to be kind of like what you do when you look back at your children.”

Adams said one similarity between WSU and UTEP is that they have well-known men’s basketball programs.

“The legendary coach Don Haskins coached at UTEP, and that was the team that won the championship in the movie ‘Glory Road,’” Adams said. “I went to this school that had this phenomenal history with their men’s basketball program.”

She said she saw parallels between the legacies of men’s basketball at UTEP and WSU.

“I feel like I can definitely learn and grow as a coach from being here where [Gregg Mashall] is at,” Adams said.

Adams said she is encouraged by the success of the men’s team.

“I’m embracing the success that our men’s program has had,” she said. “We’re going to utilize their success to help our success.”