TEMPE – From the moment the lights flashed on and the cameras began recording, the new face of Arizona State women’s basketball oozed passion and leadership with every word.
Natasha Adair, former head coach at the University of Delaware, now sits in the driver’s seat of a Sun Devils program that is trying to build a winning culture. That goal is underscored by Adair’s every statement, her words coming from, as she puts it, “a premise of love.”
She has some awfully big cleats to fill. After 25 historic years, former head coach Charli Turner Thorne, the winningest coach in ASU women’s basketball history, retired and handed the keys to a brilliant basketball mind who is well-established in her own right.
Over a combined 10 years as coach of University of Delaware, Georgetown and the College of Charleston, Adair posted a 167-143 (.539) record. The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Coach of the Year award she won in 2021 highlights a résumé full of success and development.
Since day one of the Adair era at ASU, the offseason focused on building a foundation that would help both the players and the coaches thrive. Preseason pundits ranked the Sun Devils at the bottom of the Pac-12, but Adair isn’t bothered by the outside noise. After a season-opening win Monday against Northern Arizona, ASU is poised for a season of development and improvement. The process continues Friday in a home game against Grambling State.
“I think that’s been the biggest thing we focused on, especially in the offseason when everyone got here. It was just more about the culture of the team,” Adair said. “You had six players that were here, and then there was so much change. With the new players coming in, we still talked about why (pick) ASU, and I think if you keep everyone focused on the why, then it doesn’t matter where the players came from. It’s just where we are now.”
The messaging has been simple from the beginning – defend, rebound, run and score.
That’s been her mantra throughout her coaching career. In Adair’s eyes, elite rebounding and team defense will be at the heart of the team’s game plan during the season.
“Defense wins championships, and we’re a team that’s going to rebound,” Adair said. “All of my teams that I’ve been a part of over the years are top in the country in rebounding. That sends a message when you make extra-effort plays, and we want to be that team.”
As a former USA All-American high school power forward in Silver Spring, Maryland, Adair emerged as a top recruit before a career-altering anterior cruciate ligament injury in 1990. After recovering, she played for Pensacola Junior College, where her dominance on the glass helped lead the team to two state championships.
Adair’s experience as a former player, and in particular a talented power forward, has assisted in sculpting teams that hustle, compete and dominate on both ends of the floor. Most notably, last season with Delaware, her team won a regular-season title and advanced to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament semifinals (WNIT) while averaging a tournament-best 20.3 rebounds per game.
One key to Adair’s success is the synergy among the coaching staff. She has a track record of bringing the same assistants to every coaching stop, and coaching with former players helps build trust with new players.
“They’re real genuine, like, everything that coach A(dair) says is really from the heart,” said freshman guard Trayanna Crisp, who was ranked as the No. 73 overall prospect in the class of 2022 by ESPN.com. “And the way she teaches is not necessarily aggressive, but rather to teach you and to build you. But she’ll obviously get on to you whenever it is needed.”
With Adair at the forefront, fans can rest assured the Sun Devils will battle each and every time they touch the hardwood.
“I want our players to see me for who I am. I’m a mom,” Adair said. “I think for me to be able to show them who I am off the court, it will allow them to understand my passion and my drive on the court. My sole purpose is to make sure our young women are coached holistically, and to just build their strength, their toughness, and build that confidence in them that they can do anything. I coach from a premise of love, but also support.
“This program will always be player led and coach supported,” she added, “meaning we will empower our young women to find their strength to use their voice, and just to be rockstars with all that they do.”