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Why U Coach Joanna Reitz, Utah Women's Basketball

MY BEGINNING

I started playing organized basketball in the third grade with a group of girls from my school. The majority of us played together all the way through high school and several of them are still some of my very best friends.

My dad was the coach of that first team, but I think my love for basketball and sports probably started before then.

I inherited it.

My grandfather on my dad’s side played and coached basketball. My dad played and coached tennis. So, sports have always been in my life.

MY HOME

I was born in Kansas, but I grew up in Denver. I love Denver! It was a great place for me to grow up and I was blessed with great friends.

I have one brother, Michael, and he is seven years younger than me. We have always been very close. Both of my parents worked, so Michael and I had lots of time together, and in our family, we are always playing something.

Growing up, it was playing hockey in the street, playing catch, golf, tennis, ping-pong, foosball, cards – our dad taught us to play everything.

I would say both of our parents were equally tough on me. From my dad, I gained a love of all sports. From my mom, I gained a love of numbers and music. And from both, I gained extreme competitiveness.

Michael played three sports in high school – golf, basketball and baseball. He won a state championship in golf and went on to play golf in college. My parents made me take piano lessons until I was a freshman in high school and were unwavering about making me practice five times per week. When I started high school, I got too busy with homework and sports practice that I quit piano, but now I wish I would’ve stuck with it.

One thing we did do a lot as a family was attend University of Colorado sporting events, sometimes volleyball, but usually basketball. We went to so many games up there, so it is a special experience for me now when we play there.

MY PREP YEARS

I played basketball in high school, as well as volleyball and soccer – we actually won a state championship in soccer and I had some teammates that were REALLY good.

I loved playing all three, but basketball was always my favorite and it was what I was best at. The experience was outstanding. I loved high school sports, and had so much fun.

MY NEXT STEP

My recruiting process for basketball was pretty simple. I never played club basketball, and I was not heavily recruited.

I knew I wanted to go to college and hopefully have an opportunity to keep playing basketball, but I had no idea where or how I was going to afford it. So, my search started really broad and eventually I visited a handful of schools – University of Wyoming, CU-Colorado Springs, a couple of private schools in California, Wheaton (where my mom went), and Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga.

We had some family friends who went to Covenant and had a great experience there, so as my college options narrowed, they always stayed in the mix. I ended up choosing Covenant because of the connection with the people there and I am so thankful for my time on the mountain.

I got to play four years of college basketball, I got a degree, and I left with some great friends.

MY CAREER PATH

When I was young, I thought I wanted to play in the WNBA – not a realistic dream. Then I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but when I looked at all the classes I had to take, I lost interest. Then I looked into physical therapy or athletic training, but after doing some shadowing, I changed my mind.

So, I ended up taking classes in college that I liked and was interested in without having a clear career path. When I graduated from Covenant, I had no idea what I was going to next, so I packed up and drove back to Denver and started looking at my options.

I got an opportunity to teach some classes at Florida State and that would pay for my graduate school, so back to the south I went! When I finished playing college basketball, I was totally burned out with hoops and so I wanted a break from it. I thought I wanted to work somewhere in college athletics, so I did all sorts of internships and volunteering in the different divisions in the FSU athletic department.

After about four months of that, I missed basketball. It was then I decided that I wanted to coach.

During my second semester at FSU I started working as a team manager and camp intern and then got hired as a graduate assistant the following summer. I worked as the GA for three years and then spent one year on staff as the Director of Recruiting Operations.

MY FIRST JOB

It was really fun my first year as a full-time coach, but also intimidating and overwhelming at times. As a GA, I got to observe and participate in so many things, but I was never ultimately responsible. So, that first year of coaching at Shorter University was a big learning curve for me and I was fortunate to work for a great guy – Vic Mitchell – a veteran coach that has been really successful.

He was patient and he let me do so much with some space to make mistakes.

I’m just grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to work for successful veteran coaches that are great people. They’ve invested in me on and off the court and I’m forever indebted to them.

I feel like I learned the most during my time at Florida State though. When I got there, I knew nothing. Coach Sue and her staff, which included Cori Close, the head coach at UCLA, allowed me to sit in on everything and over time, I started to understand how things work.

MY RETURN TO THE MOUNTAINS

I actually met Lynne at the Final Four a couple of months before she offered me the job. She was speaking at a round table discussion and we ended up at the same table since both of our last names start with R.

She impressed me immediately. She was sharp, articulate, funny, personable, and I remember thinking, “that is someone I would like to work for someday.”

My experience at Utah has been outstanding. We have incredible support and resources here at Utah and I love competing in the Pac-12. Just scouting some of our opponents has made me a better coach.

WHY U COACH

The People.

There’s no doubt the relationships are the most rewarding part – with the bosses, coworkers, players, families, other coaches. The people are what make this profession so special.