An hour before being introduced as the new women's basketball coach at Alabama A&M, Semeka Randall huddled with several of the team's returning players.
"She told us she was going to throw things at us we've never seen before," guard Brittney Strickland said. "She said as long as we keep an open mind, it'll work."
More than what she said, it was Randall heard that may be most important.
"I don't think I spoke as much as I listened," she said. "They were very vocal, informing me about campus and what I needed to know. It was a breath of fresh air. There was an eagerness there."
Randall, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, had been head coach at Ohio University for five seasons, but was fired March 11. She had a record of 50-103, 22-58 in the Mid-American Conference. The Bobcats were 6-23 last season in what was essentially a lame-duck year after her five-year contract was not given an extension prior to the season.
She had been an assistant coach at Cleveland State (2002-03), Michigan State (2004-07) and West Virginia (2007-08) before taking the Ohio job.
Randall was a two-time All-America at Tennessee under the legendary Pat Summitt and was a member of the Lady Vols' undefeated 1998 national championship team, arguably one of the best teams in women's college history. Or, as Randall will attest, "the best team ever."
Of her decision to go to Tennessee, "Pat recruited me since I was in the eighth grade." Had she not gone to UT, Randall said she'd have signed with UConn. "Either way, I'd have played for two intense people."
She was the 17th pick of the WNBA draft in 2001 and played in the league through the 2004 season.
As for what she'll throw at her players, the Lady Bulldogs will be playing a more aggressive defense, Randall promised.
Alabama A&M has played an ambitious non-conference schedule under her predecessor, Altherias Warmley, who was fired a month ago after 11 seasons on the job. Randall was non-committal about the schedule but noted several vacancies remain.
In a press conference also attended by A&M athletic department staff and a smattering of fans, director of athletics Bryan Hicks called it "an exciting day for Lady Bulldog fans" and called Randall "an outstanding coach (and) is even a better person. She has handled the highest level of success on the brightest stage -- NCAA champion, All-American, professional athlete -- with dignity."
Randall said "I believe I have a story to tell and share with the young women. ... I'm here to build a winning tradition. It's going to take time. It's going to take hard work. Our program will be run in a first-class manner. We will maintain compliance with the NCAA rules. Our student-athletes will have a great experience and we will enjoy this ride."