The hiring of a new head coach — especially one that’s never held the top position before — is often accompanied by a mandate to build: Take a struggling program and make it a winner.
New Stony Brook women’s basketball coach Ashley Langford has no such mandate. Hers is one of maintenance. Coming off an America East Tournament championship and the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance, the standard for success is in place. All Langford has to do is continue it.
That may seem even more daunting for a rookie coach, but not Langford, who served as associate head coach at James Madison last season after holding an assistant position there since 2017.
"Some people may look at it as pressure, but I'm accustomed to that," Langford told Newsday following her introductory news conference Friday morning. "At JMU, we had a target on our back and everyone gave us their best game. I like that. I like being the one everybody wants to be and everyone wants to beat. Coming to Story Brook, I'm used to that situation."
While there was a lot of interest in the job, Stony Brook athletic director Shawn Heilbron said the connection with Langford was evident from the first interview, and it was hard to shake off.
"It always came back to Ashley," Heilbron said before introducing Langford. "From out first Zoom call, the energy literally burst through the screen. Then we got her on the campus and it was a no-doubter as far as we were concerned."
Heilbron continued: "As we continued to go through the process, it was ‘How do we not hire Ashley?' Someone else was going to and I knew I’d kick myself if we didn’t make it happen at Stony Brook."
While the program had success last season, there is still room for Langford to make her mark on it. With only five underclassmen on the roster, the team will have to be remade in her image.
"Our agenda is going to be defend, rebound and run," Langford said. "But, we're going to play really hard . . . On offense, we're going to run a little bit more. I want the players to feel free. I want the players to be able to get rebounds and go and score quickly down the floor in transition."
Langford stressed the importance of offensive improvisation and letting her players make decisions on the floor.
"I want my players to make plays," Langford said. "I can devise and draw up the best play in the world, but there's probably going to be a breakdown somewhere along the line. I want our players to be confident that they can go make a play themselves. Player-led teams are the most successful ones."