Hard work allows Hughey to become head coach
Only three years into his coaching career, Ronald Hughey knew he wanted to lead his own program.
Still at South Carolina State, Hughey was acquiring the necessary skills while fulfilling all the roles an underfunded program needed. He served as the strength coach, team nutritionist, film coach, recruiter and maintenance man.
All of the hats he wore while moving up the coaching ladder prepared Hughey for when he reached his goal of piloting a basketball program. He was announced as the Cougars’ new women’s basketball coach in a press conference Tuesday.
Hughey replaces interim coach Wade Scott, who became the Cougars’ head coach following the abrupt resignation of Todd Buchanan in late December.
He said he has been ready for this moment for a long time.
“I’ve got stacks of notebooks that I wrote down different things from different programs. And now, having an opportunity to open up those notebooks and — woosah,” Hughey said, referring to a relaxation technique from the movie “Bad Boys 2.” “I’m looking forward to it.”
Hughey, who has 10 years of coaching experience, knew that he could convince Athletics Director Mack Rhoades he was the right candidate if given the opportunity. However, of the 10 people who were interviewed for the job, Hughey was the lone candidate without head coaching experience.
“Let me come and lay my cards down like everyone else and get the opportunity to compete. I love challenges. I have all my life,” Hughey said. “I’ve always overcome, always through hard work, perseverance, commitment and sacrifice. Sacrifice is my middle name. If there’s something that needs to be done, I’ll do it.”
Hughey talked about graduation and academics more than success on the court, but he said he still expects to build the Cougars into a championship-caliber team through hard work and great recruiting. His commitment to hard work is a message Hughey already stressed to his current players.
“He told the team in the initial meeting that ‘if you’re not going to work hard, you’re going to be a great cheerleader on the bench, because you’re not going to hit the floor,’” Rhoades said.
Hughey has a history of working with successful programs. He has helped guide five schools to postseason appearances in each of the last seven years, including taking six consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament with four separate programs.
Before joining UH, Hughey worked at Florida State, Texas and Rutgers, where he worked with legendary coach C. Vivian Stringer. His success, willingness to work hard and history with great coaches sold Rhoades.
“He knows what a championship program feels and looks like. The biggest hurdle that we had to get over was, ‘Is he ready?’ And that’s the same hurdle for anybody that’s an assistant coach,” Rhoades said.
Hughey is also known as a recruiter. He helped Florida State snag the nation’s No. 7 class by All-Star Girls Report and No. 11 by ESPNW HoopGurlz in 2013. The class included three top-100 players, including McDonald’s All-American Kai James.
Hughey spent two years as an assistant coach at the University of Texas before arriving at Florida State. While coaching the Longhorns, he helped them reach NCAA tournaments in consecutive years and attain top-15 recruiting classes.
After limited interactions, junior forward Marche Amerson said she liked what she heard.
“He seems very enthusiastic. Speaking to him just before the press conference, he said he’s going to bring a lot of discipline and we’re going to sacrifice the me for the we,” Amerson said. “Everything sounds great to me, and as a team, we’re excited to be moving forward.”
Hughey inherited a UH team with three consecutive losing seasons, including 6-25 overall and 1-17 during its first year in the American Athletic Conference.