After graduating from Virginia Tech in the Spring of 2007, Britney Anderson wanted to get away from basketball as fast as possible.
“I didn’t want anything to do with basketball,” Anderson said. “I was over it. I think I hit a wall.”
But the game pulled her back in. Anderson started coaching AAU, while working her day job as a recruiter for M.C. Dean, Inc., an electrical engineering firm, in Northern Virginia. Anderson said when you love the game as much as she does, you can’t stay away for long.
“Sports in general teach you a lot about life,” Anderson said. “You get out what you put in. Nothing comes easy. I feel like a lot of people think athletes have their God-given talent and ability, but what are you doing to help nurture that? If you don’t know any plays, it doesn’t matter how much talent you have. You’ve got to know what we’re trying to do. That part of it is what got me back into it. Everything I faced in corporate America, I turned it back to basketball.”
Anderson’s job as a college recruiter allowed her to interact with people on a regular basis, which was something she loved. It wasn’t big-time coaching, but working in “corporate America” relates more than you think.
“It helped me grow up,” Anderson said. “I think we think we’re in college, and I played in the Big East one year and the ACC three years, we took chartered flights, we always got new shoes, we got all these things that we didn’t necessarily need, they were things that were given to us. I needed to grow up. Everything doesn’t revolve around you, or us and the 15 girls on the team.”
“When you get out into the working world, they really don’t care how many points you scored,” Anderson said. “If I had got into coaching right after I graduated, I would’ve been terrible and nobody would ever want to hire me again,” Anderson said.
Anderson made the change permanently in 2014, accepting an assistant coach position at Radford under Mike McGuire.
“I prayed about it some, because it was a huge career change,” Anderson said. “You’re basically starting from the bottom, where I had a really good job, making a lot of money, I was living outside of D.C., I could do anything and everything I wanted. Because you really have no control over your salary until you move up [as a coach]. I did a lot of soul searching, as my mom would say.”
Anderson didn’t stay at Radford long. At the end of the season, former Virginia Tech women’s basketball Head Coach Dennis Wolff came calling, asking Anderson if she wanted to return to her alma mater.
“Honestly, I thought it would never happen,” Anderson said. “When I got into college coaching, it was never to come back to Virginia Tech. When you play somewhere, it’s that harder to come back.”
Anderson accepted the position, and now finds herself as the most senior coach on the Tech staff, as new Head Coach Kenny Brooks has started from scratch after accepting the position in March.
“We sat down and talked after his press conference,” Anderson said. “He didn’t really know what he was going to do. It was kind of one of those things where he wanted me to prove myself. It was just me and him here for about a week and a half or so, and then he told me he wanted me to stay if I wanted to stay. I’m pretty sure he thought I was going to tell him I wanted to leave, so he was happy with it.”
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It hasn’t been that long, but Anderson says the game has changed drastically since her playing days.
“I think the girls are exposed more earlier,” Anderson said. “Through social media, through the different events scouting services have, through the live periods and all that, and how serious AAU is taken, they’re exposed more. They play at a higher level earlier, so I think that aspect of it, they know who else is out there. They know who is in California, they know who is overseas, the opportunities have have grown a lot, as far as opportunities for them being able to play in front of coaches from all over the United States, but also some AAU teams are going out of the country to play in the summer.”
Anderson said she learned a lot in her first season under Wolff. She says working for Wolff was important for her development as a coach.
“He’s a New Yorker,” Anderson said. “He’s funny. My dad is from D.C., and he is from New York, he has a city-like personality, and my dad does this too, he says some things and you’re like, ‘Did you just say that,’. It’s just the New Yorker mentality. It wasn’t anything bad, just funny. He’s very knowledgeable about the game, he’s seen a lot of players and he’s been a lot of places. He’ll teach you a lot. His thing was learning on your own and being able to adjust in certain situations. It was a good experience, but he’s funny. He’s very funny.”
Anderson’s primary duties at Virginia Tech have been as a recruiter and to scout opposing teams, but also to connect with the players on a personal level.
“One thing people don’t realize is these girls have real-life issues, they’re going through things,” Anderson said. “We just see the athlete and that’s it. It was a lot of spending time with them, getting to know them off the court.”
“If you just let them talk, they’ll talk and they’ll tell you everything,” Anderson said. “It’s helped from the point of view that everyone learns different. When you say one thing, some people get it and some people don’t.”
Last season was an important step in the right direction for the program. The Hokies had a winning season for the first time since 2006-2007, and also made a WNIT appearance.
“It was the girls,” Anderson said. “They wanted to win. Once you win, it’s kind of our job to get them to believe in themselves. To be here for that, I didn’t realize how much of a turnaround it was. I think the biggest thing for me was that they were very receptive to me. They understood that I had been there.”
Still, Wolff was let go with one year left on his contract after the season ended. Anderson was named the interim head coach, until Brooks was brought on.
“I went through a coaching change my first year here, so I kind of knew how they felt,” Anderson said. “You think a coach is here for your four years, but I think they got to see the business side of it. I think it exposed them to how things work in the world. It was a whirlwind.”
“At first, I think they were guarded,” Anderson said. “They’ve been good, they’ve worked hard this summer, it was good for them because they kind of got a taste of what I went through. Some people describe it as you not being able to trust anybody, but it goes to show you don’t have control over everything. Some people think you have control over everything. I think they did their part, and the rest will take care of itself.”
Brooks certainly seems like a qualified coach. In 14 seasons at James Madison, Brooks won 75.6 percent of his games, while making the postseason 11 years in a row. Brooks won five conference titles in his last seven seasons.
“He asks your opinion on a lot of things,” Anderson said. “He lets you know where he’s coming from. Every day you learn something new.”
Heading into this season, Anderson and the rest of the staff have high expectations. Virginia Tech returns guards Chanette Hicks and Vanessa Panousis, and forwards Regan Magarity and Sidney Cook, who were four of the Hokies’ top five scorers last season. The Hokies did lose seniors Hannah Young, Taijah Campbell and Dominique Powell, who all played big roles last season.
Anderson says that Panousis and Magarity are having really good summers, while Hicks is working on her jump shot to make her more versatile offensively. She says with Brooks in town, the Hokies can crack the NCAA Tournament.
“How many wins can we get in-conference,” Anderson said. “Who are we beating in-conference and where? That’s a big part of it. And you could go 0-50, if you beat UVa., it’s like you just won a national championship.”