It’s been seven months since we’ve seen Sandy Pugh in the place she seems most comfortable: sitting on her trademark stool, clutching a whiteboard, surrounded by players during a timeout in crunch time of a women’s basketball game.
Only weeks after Southern’s season ended with a loss to Tulane in the WNIT, Pugh found herself in a new, very unfamiliar position, assuming the role of interim athletic director after SU fired Greg LaFleur.
The search for a permanent replacement continues, and Pugh has agreed to stay on as long as Southern needs her. But her extra duties meant one thing for the women’s basketball team: more heavy lifting for assistants Carlos Funchess and David Frank. Naturally, they answered the call.
Hey, vacations are overrated, right?
“Well, coach Pugh knows I’m going to be right here doing whatever she needs me to do,” Funchess said with a laugh Wednesday.
“Me and coach Frank — whatever we need to do to keep the program rolling in a positive direction, we’re always going to step up and do that, no matter what it’s going to require of us.”
Although Funchess and Frank already had a heavy hand in day-to-day program operations, their roles increased by necessity.
Need an example? Consider this one.
“We had two recruits in — and normally, when recruits come in, I would’ve seen them at least once or twice. In this instance, I hadn’t seen them,” Pugh said.
“I trust those guys to make the call. ... They’ve just been outstanding. It’s good when you have guys who know the system and know the expectations, and they can step in and we don’t miss a beat.”
Preseason practice is under way for the Southern women, and Pugh is back on the floor at the F.G. Clark Activity Center, teaching young players. And this time around, Pugh and her assistants have some serious teaching to do.
Lest anyone forget, last year’s team included five seniors, three of whom were fifth-year players. Those players came to Southern shortly after Pugh had the worst season of her coaching career, a 22-loss disaster that led to a roster overhaul.
Those players helped lead SU back to the top of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, as the Jaguars won back-to-back regular-season SWAC titles. Last spring, the Jaguars’ only major misstep was failing to close out the championship game in the SWAC tourney as Prairie View staged a rally to win.
This time around, the coaching staff has seven veterans and six freshmen. Naturally, this team requires more patience. Ultimately, the goal is the same.
“What we try to do is come in and get better every day, know what we’re doing and just have a mind-set of getting better and striving to be a champion,” Funchess said. “That’s going to require a lot of hard work.”
Luckily, that’s something the coaches know quite a bit about.