At a glance, Jim Foster’s office looks like a shrine to a man with many major accomplishments in his more than 30 years on the bench. However, a closer look and you will see that they are awards and accomplishments that took a team effort.
Along a shelf are basketballs honoring him for his many milestone wins. More than 800 games won by many teams. Another wall boasts of international team accomplishments. Medals, team photos and plaques tell the story.
In the far corner, directly visible upon entering the room, is an old bleacher seat from the McKenzie Arena adorned with a plaque to long-time Mocs supporter and Jim Foster friend, Henry Davenport.
I sat in that chair to talk with women’s basketball head coach Jim Foster and find out his take on a few things.
Basketball is a team sport, but you received many awards for your accomplishments as an individual. Talk about what that means to you.
“I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to it. Every time you turn around, there’s an award show. It’s been embellished. I just don’t get it. It’s your job. Most people go through their life doing their job.
“If you do a good job, you know it. If you do a bad job, you know it. If you do a good job, the people around you know it. If you do a bad job, the people around you know it.”
What made you decide that coaching would be your profession?
“I got pushed in that direction. I was coaching teams when I was in eighth grade. Our CYO coach quit and the priest made me the coach, so I was a player/coach as an eighth grader. I coached two teams when I was in high school. I just got nudged that direction.”
Your career began in the early stages of Title IX. What are some of the major changes you have seen in women’s sports as a result of that law?
“Opportunity. Players get the same opportunities. They can start at a younger age. There are more leagues, camps, etc. That stuff wasn’t really available to everyone. It is now, pretty much as a result of the opportunity. Skills are better and the game has significantly improved as a result.”
How have the NCAA rules for offseason practice changed the game?
“The NCAA has made two very good decisions over the years; both relative to summer. One of them is that freshmen can start in the summer before their freshman year, which across the board, allows for gradual entry into what life is going to be like in college. The conditioning and academic introduction and now basketball introduction, allows them to do it in a more timely pace without the full student body present, without the demands of a full schedule. You get a dose of reality before it smacks you right in the face if you have to do that all together when you first enter into a school and start in August. You season now starts in September. It’s made it much more conducive for the transition to be successful.
"Second is allowing the coaches to be with their players in the off season for all of the reasons above. What you share in common and have in common with your players is basketball and now – especially with the freshmen – your relationship with them starts in a more realistic way and fashion. You can have more communication and there is not the pressure of the season.”
How do you spend your summer vacation?
“The ideal scenario for a basketball coach, through experience, to me is if you’re on quarters. It brings sanity to your schedule. On semesters, there is an insanity to your schedule.
“To visit family, you have to plan those things. I don’t think it’s any different than anyone else. What I don’t think people don’t necessarily understand is don’t expect me at a wedding if you’re getting married between October and March.”
What drew you to befriend Henry Davenport?
“His personality and his enthusiasm and his optimism were fun traits. His sense of humor and his intelligence. His common sense. He was an interesting dude.
“Anybody who knew him and spent time with him, speaks in ‘Henryisms’ and has wonderful stories to reflect on and embellish as the years go on.”