You might have seen the Nevada women’s basketball program walking around with a shirt that says “STUPH.” You might have tilted your head and wonder why that might be plastered across a shirt. At this point you’re probably wondering what it means.
STUPH translates to servanthood, teamwork, unity, passion and humility. These are five core principles that Nevada women’s basketball head coach Jane Albright aims to instill in her players. Wins and losses are nice, but she is more concerned with her players growing as people.
“There is a lot of character behind the way she coaches where it may not reflect in wins and losses,” said Nevada associate head coach Camille Williams. “I don’t think that’s the biggest concern for her. Her concern for her is that we are teaching the right principles in life, that we’re teaching good values. Our model, servant hood, thankfulness, unity, passion and humility, none of those have anything to do with W’s and L’s. In the people that we’ve coached for four years you can see a lot of that in them.”
Albright has essentially been training the women that come through her program to be better people — especially during a crucial time of self-discovery in college. Some people may be lucky enough to have a mentor to lead them in the right direction while others end up finding themselves on their own. Albright has been a mentor on and off of the court to the hundreds of women that have played under her.
Nevada point guard Terilyn Moe views Albright as a role model. Albright has been there for Moe tremendously through Moe’s two ACL tears. One day Moe was talking to Albright about how she writes letters to her friend in jail on a weekly basis. Albright took it upon herself to write Moe’s friend a letter and now writes to her weekly as well.
“To me, I think that’s the best part of having her as a head coach is the type of person she is. She’s one of the most caring and loving people I know. She cares about everyone. She might not even know them and she’ll care about them. She’s done so much for me outside of basketball and it’s really helped me grow. I think that’s something she’s good at doing. It’s not just about basketball or wins and losses. She’s preparing us for life.”
Along with preparing her players for life, Albright also cultivates a family atmosphere in the locker room. She wants her players to have a special bond that connects them. She wants them to play for each other, not simply for wins and losses.
“I’ve been here for 26 years doing broadcast, not all women’s broadcast but football, basketball and baseball, and the family atmosphere that she puts into this program, I’ve never seen it in all the time that I’ve been here at the University of Nevada,” said ESPN play-by-play commentator Don Marchand. “She really makes it not only about basketball but making sure everyone has everyone’s back and make it a family atmosphere here.”
“I think that’s really why I came to Nevada – for the family atmosphere,” said senior post player Aja Johnson. “I think it’s really important because when you come to college and you’re an athlete your head coach in my opinion is, kind of like your second parent. It’s the first time you’re going away from home. They’re kind of the people that oversee you.
“Jane is that supportive parent. She’s there for you. She gives you her space. She cares about us so much and will just go above and beyond for us. We’re all really lucky to have her as a coach.”
Williams feels especially lucky to have had Albright as a coach. Williams played for Albright in the early 1990s at the University of Wisconsin. Albright replaced another coach midseason, a time when basketball was starting to feel like a job for Williams. Albright rejuvenated Williams and reconnected her with the game.
“When Jane came in, I began to love the game more,” Williams said. “I regained the passion that I had before and Jane is really ultimately the reason why I’m coaching today. If it wasn’t for her, I would have been so far removed from basketball. It would be a distant memory. Because of her, I’m in the game. I’m teaching those same principles. I’m passing it down because she believed in me enough to give me that chance. She is a coach of chances.”
Albright’s accolades and accomplishments are lengthy. In her 31 seasons, Albright has led her teams to nine NCAA Tournament appearances. She has won the 2014 Carol Eckman Award, which is presented by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Associate to a WBCA member coach who exemplifies Eckman’s spirit, integrity and character through sportsmanship, commitment to the student-athlete, honesty, ethical behavior, courage and dedication to person.
She also was awarded the 2008-2009 Kay Yow “Heart of a Coach Award,” an award present annually by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to honor a basketball coach who has exemplified biblical principles over the course of his or her career.
However, Albright is more than her list of impressive accomplishments. According to her players, she isn’t cut from the same cloth as her fellow head coaches at Nevada. Instead, she’s cut from cloth of the John Wooden, Kay Yow, Carol Eckman and Pat Summit types.
Johnson has only felt love and compassion radiate from Albright. The sun is starting to set on her final season with the legendary head coach. She takes a minute to reflect on her four years with Albright.
“She’s just an amazing coach, an amazing friend,” Johnson said. “She’s a mother. She does whatever she needs to do for whatever you need. She’s perfect because if you need her, she’ll be there, but she never really gets too involved so she has that perfect balance. You won’t find a coach, personally in my opinion, at Nevada that loves this program and their players more. She’s just an absolute joy. I wouldn’t have asked for a better coach for the past four years.”
Nicole Skow can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.