USF women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez found himself in a new position after 18 years as a head coach when he was selected as one of two court coaches for the U.S. U18 Women’s National Team.
Fernandez traveled to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado during Memorial Day Weekend to assist coaches at the USA Basketball U18 Women’s National Team Trials.
Court coaches help the team run trials by manning drills at the event.Even though working as a court coach is a step down from being a head coach, Fernandez saw the opportunity as an honor and a way to learn even more about coaching.
“I think if you’re not a constant learner, you’re going to get left behind,” Fernandez said. “I mean, I learn things every day. And it was an incredible staff with Cori (Close) from UCLA, Natasha (Adair) from Delaware, and Jeff (Walz) from Louisville.”
The U18 Women’s National Team will compete at the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Americas tournament starting Aug. 1. Fernandez’s role on the team was limited to just help the team during the trials — he won’t be coaching the team any more this year.
Fernandez and University of Georgia coach Joni Taylor were both selected to serve as court coaches for the trials.
Of the 36 athletes at the trials, 12 were selected for the team by the USA Junior National Team Committee. Fernandez played a part in helping some of the players make the final roster.
“You learn from your colleagues,” Fernandez said. “It was great to coach the best players in the world right now.”
In addition to learning from other college coaches, Fernandez said he was honored to be chosen as one of the court coaches.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Fernandez said. “I think that any head coach that coaches Division I aspires to be a part of USA Basketball just because of the tradition. It’s really one of the pinnacles of your sport.”
Fernandez has compiled a 335-243 overall record over 18 seasons as head coach at USF. He led the team to five NCAA Tournaments and coached the Bulls to the 2009 Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship. He thinks this could be a reason why he was selected to join the Women’s National Team.
“Maybe just because of the success we’ve had here at USF,” Fernandez said. “I think we have one of the top programs in the country and I think we play an exciting style of basketball, but I don’t know. The committee is involved in those decisions.”
Known as an above-average recruiter with a knack for finding talented basketball players from other countries, Fernandez has shown he is one of the top international recruiters. Last season, the Bulls’ top four scorers were from other countries.
Latvian native Kitija Laksa led USF with 717 points while Maria Jespersen of Denmark came closest, scoring 616 points for the Bulls. Laia Flores of Spain led the team with 217 assists.
Fernandez evaluates players in July at FIBA Europe tournaments. Much like the FIBA Americas, the FIBA Europe tournaments feature players from different countries playing against each other in segregated age groups.
Fernandez said he doesn’t know if his most recent experience with USA Basketball will help him recruit in the future.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But we recruit a different type of kid.”