When University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletic director Mark Wharton got down to business in his search for a women's basketball coach to replace Hall of Famer Jim Foster the past couple of weeks, Katie Galloway Burrows' expected promotion from Mocs assistant to head coach momentarily looked a little less certain.
There reportedly were former head coaches who'd won national championships. Sixteen sitting head coaches total. And really, really talented Power Five conference assistants.
And because Wharton hadn't been around UTC when either Foster or Foster's predecessor Wes Moore was hired, he didn't really owe them or Burrows anything by hiring her, despite their glowing recommendations.
Or as Wharton admitted in the Friday news conference: "I was nervous as I talked to the quality of candidates that I was going to have to have that conversation with Katie and the staff that we weren't going to keep them."
But then Burrows had her interview in front of Wharton and the committee. If you want to use a basketball term, she swished it from half-court.
Not that she hasn't been doing that for years, both symbolically and physically. Just ask her father Joe, the Lookout Valley coaching legend.
"When Katie was growing up, the one edge she always had on (brother Keith) was shots from long range," Joe related. "She just had a knack for that. So one night at Tennessee Temple University, with Keith playing for Temple, Katie goes out to get some popcorn at halftime and winds up being picked to shoot a half-court shot for a year's supply of Coca-Cola."
At the moment she was about to shoot, Keith and his teammates were leaving the locker room to start the second half. He reportedly turned to them and said, "Katie is going to hit that shot."
Said her dad in describing what came next: "She stripped it (long pause) in heels. But because of NCAA rules, she couldn't accept the Coke."
Then again, Galloway had been watching Katie perform outrageous basketball feats from the fourth grade on.
"Katie wanted to go out for the middle school team in the fourth grade," he said. "She makes it and the first game is at Grace. I ask her if she thinks she'll get to play and she says, 'I hope so.' She doesn't just play, though. She starts. She's so small her shirt hangs down to her knee. You can't even see her shorts it's so long. She's easily the smallest kid on the court. But she hits two 3-pointers in the first quarter, scores eight points in the period and they run a box-and-one on her the rest of the way."
Yet even Galloway admits that when they were growing up, his older daughter Kristen Galloway Clounch — who's currently the Lookout Valley girls' coach — appeared more likely to follow his career path than Katie.
"Katie always loved to play basketball," he said, "but Kristen would go to games with me to scout another team. When she got older, I'd let her go scout on her own. A lot of times she had better scouting reports than I had."
Yet Katie was also always critiquing the game and occasionally, very occasionally, letting her feelings known about how her dad or sister were doing things.
"She'd never say anything in front of the other players," Kristen said. "But you might see an eye-roll on occasion, or she'd turn away in the huddle."
Said Joe: "I had the starters wear black jerseys in practice. When I'd get upset with them about something, I'd say, 'Black shirts on the line (to run).' One day she got frustrated and said something to me. I ignored her and said again, 'Black shirts on the line.' I wasn't supposed to hear this, but a teammate told her, 'Katie, just shut up.'"
Added Kristen: "From a very young age, Katie not only knew what she was supposed to be doing on the court, but what all her teammates were supposed to be doing."
They all talk now — Katie, Kristen and Joe — after every Mocs women's game.
"One thing about my sister," Kristen said, "you'll never have to wonder what she's thinking. But because of how much she cares about her players, she can chew their rear ends off one second and stand in front of a bus for them the next second. She loves her players as much as people as she does as players, and she got that from our dad, and Wes Moore, and Jim Foster. All three of those men have always said if you'll put the young ladies first, everything will be fine."
UTC basketball has been more than fine pretty much from the day Moore began coaching Katie Galloway Burrows. She excelled as a player and later as an assistant for both Moore and Foster, two of the very best coaches the women's game has ever seen.
Given the list of candidates to replace Foster, it certainly was understandable for Wharton to look outside the Mocs family for his first big UTC coaching hire. But there's also much to be said for hiring from within. If you're always reaching outside to fill an opening, how can you possibly send a message to your current employees that hard work and tangible results for that work will be rewarded?
Said Kristen of the job her sister just earned: "Nothing's changed and everything's changed."
If nothing changing means a continuation of the outrageous success the Mocs have enjoyed under Moore and Foster, anything else that changes might come to benefit gifted, loyal assistants everywhere, as in a Me Too coaching movement long overdue.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org