Eugene, Ore. -- "I try not to be that coach that's like 'well when I played I did this, or we did this," jokes South Eugene girls basketball coach Tash O'Brien. "They don't care. That was 20 years ago."
O'Brien's history playing basketball in Oregon is pretty well known. She was one of the first of a pipeline of Australian players to come to Eugene and was a co-captain in 1998-1999. She was also a part of the Ducks first Pac-10 title season before entering the ranks of the team's support staff. O'Brien had two stints with Oregon as a Director of Player Personnel and still worked at the scorers table at Matthew Knight Arena for women's basketball games up until this year. But her new challenge is coaching over at South Eugene and injecting some of her experience into rebu ilding the Axe program.
"I think that's probably been the hardest thing I've got to manage," O'Brien explains. "I can't be out there playing and I wouldn't want to be. I'm 44 years old now but in my mind I'm still that competitor I once was."
In the first year of head coaching, there have been some lessons learned and growth. Not just for the kids but for O'Brien as well.
"Communication has been a huge thing I've learned," says O'Brien. "Even understanding game management in tight situations. It's one thing to be coaching youth 7th grade team in a close game but in a high school game when players are really good that you're competing against you can't take anything for granted."
And she draws on her old team and the icons they now have in Eugene to inspire her girls wearing purple and white. The team hasn't taken a trip yet to Matthew Knight Arena together but players will often head to Oregon women's basktball games to watch Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard, Satou Sabally and the rest of the Ducks.
"I kind of use them as examples," she says. "Things like do you think Sabrina is just lucky? That she wants to be a good shooter or do you think she works at it? Yeah she works at it. She;s at the gym at six o clock in the morning and doing the extra to do the same.
And it's taken with some of her athletes."
"Probably how far you can go with hard work and how much the little things matters," Aubrey Lewis, a South Eugene senior. "Doing the hard things when no one's watching and just keeping up."
While this year has been a transition, it looks like the pieces are in place for the Axe to keep on growing.
"I want them to be here for the right reasons and we've got enough reasource and talent to make South Eugene a really good basketball program again," concludes O'Brien.
A tall task ahead but Tash O'Brien is a competitor, from Mac Court to the Purple Pit of South Eugene. And it doesn't look like she or her athletes have any intention of stopping now.