Ashley Langford: Coaching Women’s Basketball

Ashley Langford became head coach for women’s basketball in April 2021. In her first two seasons, she has guided the team to a stellar 41-19 record. As impressive as her start has been, Langford reveals that what’s most important is helping her students thrive.

Describe your coaching style.

I’m a hybrid of what people would call old-school discipline, and kind of the new age. You have to adapt right to the women that you’re coaching and different generations. I’m very adaptable. I really have a pulse on my team. So it all depends on what they need at the time. But we are disciplined and I try to make everything fun. It’s important that these young women are enjoying themselves while they’re playing and that they love basketball when they graduate. You know, there are many times when athletes no longer love their sport, when they’re done because it was such a grind. And I don’t want that for my athletes. I try to really relate to them on and off the court. I think we have good interpersonal relationships, as a staff and with myself. We have to be connected to them.  

What do you love most about being a coach?

Watching young women grow is why I got into coaching. I’m also very competitive. I love the game of basketball, so I wanted to be able to stay close to it [Langford was a standout point guard at Tulane], but also to be on the other side and help women grow on and off the court.

Who has been your greatest inspiration in the game of basketball?

I’ve been inspired by so many different people. I grew up watching basketball and watching women like Jamila Wideman, who played at Stanford. She was a 5 ft. 5 inch, feisty, small point guard and at the time, I was small and that was a big part of what people maybe thought was my downfall, saying ‘you’re a great player but you’re just small.’ So watching her compete at the highest level was really inspirational to me. And then obviously to the fact that she was at a top academic school — she had ambitions to be a lawyer and attorney — and to me that that was the whole thing, right? You’re small, you’re point guard, you’re great. You’re on a really good team. And you also have these high aspirations, you know to make a difference in this world. 

So Jamila Weidman was my first inspiration and then moving forward, I went to Tulane and I played for Lisa Stockton, and she helped me develop as a woman and as a basketball player. And I’ve tried to use a lot of the things that she taught me in my coaching career. And then throughout my coaching career, I’ve worked under so many great head coaches, and I would say Sean O’Regan at James Madison University was my most inspirational one just because we spent so much time together and created a winning program. I learned really how to win and how to sustain success over years.  

How do you help your athletes with their mental health?

Mental health is extremely important. Obviously, if you’re not in the right mental space and you can’t thrive, you can’t be the best person you can be. And that’s what we’re here to do, to help them be the best versions of themselves. So throughout my time here, we’ve done meditations, we’ve done visualizations. We’ve also had the opportunity and been afforded the opportunity to have a mental health expert here, Dr. Danielle Merolla, who basically is in-house with Athletics, and she’s a great resource for our athletes. She meets with our team twice a month, and or anytime they want to get something off their chest. As their head coach, I let them know that it’s OK to talk to me, talk to someone. Because life is going to get hard, and we’ve got to give them the tools to be able to fight through that. When they are having some adversity, when they are having anxiety or when they are feeling a little depressed. How can they work out of that? Our job is to really give them the tools and equip them so that they can do that on their own once they graduate.

What do you hope that your student athletes take away the most from their experience being coached by you?

Life lessons. Winning is great but it’s the life lessons that 10 years from now you remember. My college coach did this and I remember she told me to always be 10 minutes early. I’m glad I was 10 minutes early to this interview. Certain things like that. What coaching is really about is preparing athletes for the world, for society, and to be successful. And I hope they enjoyed their time, like really actually enjoyed their experience as a college athlete, and say that they would come to Stony Brook all over again.

How has being a former student athlete helped you transition to being the coach you are today?

It’s helped tremendously being a former student athlete. Because I’ve been there. I remember being a freshman and having to manage five classes and still go to practice and still wake up at 6 am and still do all these things. I’m able to still relate to my athletes as opposed to never having experienced what they’re going through. Now we all have our different experiences, but I know what it’s like so I’m able to tell stories of when I struggled and that’s a way to connect with our players. I can say, hey, I did this; it was hard for me. I went through adversity and this is how I got through it. You’re able to give them some tips. I also think it gives me credibility. Let’s be honest about it. If I can say I competed at a really high level and we won championships, I think players respect that. I also like the fact that I’m still able to get out there and play, and that’s another level of connection that I have with my players. I’m not just gonna talk that talk, I’m going out there to demonstrate for you. I’m going to guard you and that in itself gives them comfort, and me comfort as well because I need that connection just as much as they do.

What are you most looking forward to this season?

To me, I love every game. I’m a coach, right? So every time we play a game, I’m excited. I’m excited to watch our team grow. There’s beauty in the process. And when you first start, it’s a little shaky, and it’s not all together. And just to kind of see it grow all the way to March. It’s like wow, look how far we’ve come. So to me I’m looking forward to every single game, but ultimately, the growth of each individual and the growth of our team and seeing the end product is what’s really fun for me.

Favorite SBU hoops moment?

Last year we were down 26 points at home against Iona University and we came back to win. It was crazy. I think I ran the floor at the end in full sprint! That was exciting. I’ve never been a part of a comeback like that. At halftime I was like, “I don’t know how we’re gonna do this,” but we just kept chipping away and cut that deficit down and we’re able to win by two. 

Read more in the latest issue of the Stony Brook University Magazine.

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