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Duke women's basketball's Kara Lawson announces new coaching staff

Lawson brings in a coaching staff with a wealth of experience.
Lawson brings in a coaching staff with a wealth of experience.

With a new head coach comes a new array of assistant coaches as well.

Incoming women's basketball head coach Kara Lawson announced the hiring of three new assistant coaches Friday morning, according to a team release: Beth Cunningham, Winston Gandy and Tia Jackson.

“Three of the most important decisions a head coach makes are in hiring assistant coaches,” Lawson said in the release. “The way I approached it was trying to find individually-talented coaches, similar to building a team. I wanted coaches that brought a lot to the table in terms of knowledge of the game, knowledge of recruiting, ability to build relationships and player development. All of these characteristics that you would want in a coach, you want your staff to possess as many of those as possible and be experts in a number of them. 

"You can have individually-talented people, but you must have a group that fits together. You want a group that is balanced and that will play off one another well. I think we achieved that. We’ve got three coaches that are talented enough to run their own programs—two of them already have—and have great experience recruiting the type of young women we want at Duke.”

Cunningham comes to Durham from Notre Dame, where she spent eight years as an assistant coach under the great Muffet McGraw. In South Bend, Ind., Cunningham primarily worked with the team's wing players and was essential in building one of the nation's top offenses, helping the Fighting Irish win one national championship and make five other Final Four appearances during her tenure. The Indiana native previously spent nine seasons as the head coach at VCU, where she remains the program's all-time leader in coaching wins.

Gandy has spent the last three seasons at Rice, where the Owls have went 72-22 as part of the greatest stretch in program history. He spent the prior three years as the coordinator of player development for the Washington Wizards and one year as the director of recruiting operations at Maryland.

Jackson, who was an assistant for the Blue Devils during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 campaigns, returns to Duke after spending the past five seasons as an assistant coach at Miami. She previously served as the head coach at Washington from 2007-2011 along with assistant coaching stints at VCU, Stanford, UCLA and Rutgers.

A 24-year coaching veteran, Jackson was labeled as "one of the top recruiters in the nation" during her initial two-year stay in Durham, helping bring in the No. 7 class in the country in 2005 and No. 2 class in 2006. The Blue Devils went 63-6, including an NCAA championship game appearance in 2006, during those two seasons.

“When I look at how individually-talented these coaches are and then I look at what we can be as a group combined together, it makes me excited,” Lawson said.  “But it makes me more excited for our players to be able to work with this staff every day and for our potential future players to see what type of group is going to be guiding them on and off the court throughout their college years. I feel very confident that we are going to give a great experience to young women playing in a Duke uniform.”

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