When Courtney Paris was approached by her former coach about an opening on the Oklahoma women’s basketball coaching staff, it didn’t take long to accept.
“It was a no-brainer,” Paris said in a release.
OU’s most decorated women’s basketball player of all-time is returning as an assistant coach, hoping to replicate Final Four runs like the one she steered in 2009.
The university announced Paris will replace one-year assistant Coquese Washington, who confirmed to The Transcript she resigned for another professional opportunity that will be announced soon.
OU relished the opportunity to welcome back its former star, a past AP National Player of the Year who leads OU in career points and rebounds, rolling out the Paris news in a series of videos on Twitter.
"Courtney Paris loves Oklahoma women's basketball," OU coach Sherri Coale stated in the release. "She has a heart for the journey of the collegiate athlete and a tremendous vat of basketball knowledge to share as, professionally, she has played with and for some of the greatest minds in our game.
"Courtney will be an outstanding recruiter, a pivotal mentor and guide for our post players, and a valuable addition to our sideline. She's a proven winner and we are thrilled to welcome her home."
Recruiting at a higher level has been a focus for the Sooners, who were 12-18 when the 2019-20 was suspended, trending toward their second consecutive losing season for the first time since 1998.
Paris could help. She brings one of women’s basketball’s most recognizable faces to the bench. A year ago, OU hired former NCAA star Jackie Stiles, who was NCAA Division I's top scorer from 2001-17.
Paris should resonate with local prospects, especially. She was a force with the Sooners from 2005-09, with 20 Division-I records by the time she left Norman — including a record 112 consecutive double-doubles.
After being picked No. 7 overall in the 2009 WNBA Draft, she played for 11 seasons with five organizations: the Sacramento Monarchs, Atlanta Dream, Tulsa Shock, Dallas Wings and Seattle Storm.
She was the first NCAA men's or women's basketball player in any division to reach 2,500 points and 2,000 rebounds for her career.
The Sooners revamped their staff less than a year ago, parting ways with longtime assistants Pam DeCosta and Chad Thrailkill last summer. Washington, a former head coach, and Stiles were hired in their places.
Those were considered strong hires. The changes came following an 8-22 season, OU’s second-worst record in Coale’s 24 seasons as coach.
The Sooners improved marginally this past season, starting 5-4 — including an upset over No. 25 LSU — but lost the final eight games of the regular season before the Big 12 tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
An injury to leading scorer Ana Llanusa didn’t help matters. Junior-college transfer guard Kamryn Lemon also left the team during the first semester and recently surfaced at Long Beach State.
OU has won six Big 12 regular-season titles under Coale, but none since Paris’ final season in 2009. A resurgence would require catching up to conference foes Texas and Baylor.
The Longhorns recently hired former Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer and landed 2021 blue-chip small forward Aaliyah Moore out of OU’s backyard, from Moore High School.
Baylor won the 2019 national title and was considered a contender for the 2020 crown before the NCAA tournament was canceled.
Paris went a combined 15-9 against Texas and Baylor as a player, and will soon go head-to-head with them again.
"I'm thrilled to return to my alma mater as a coach," Paris said. “… I'm excited to get to work."
• OU (2005-09): 19.9 ppg, 14.8 rpg, 3.3 bpg
• WNBA (11 seasons): 4.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.6 bpg
• Number to know: 112 - consecutive double-doubles Paris posted while at OU, an NCAA record
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