Living in Philadelphia has grown on Tonya Cardoza, although there is one thing about her that will never change. The woman loves the Patriots and Red Sox and geography has absolutely no chance to ever alter that.
“I love Philadelphia,” Cardoza said. “Boston [her hometown] is very similar. But I am not into the Philly sports teams. I don’t care for any of them at all. I’ve gone to some Eagles games, but only because I love football.”
But time does change some things. And for Cardoza, women’s basketball coach at Temple, it’s a sure measure of the time she’s been away from UConn.
It’s been six years since she left to become a head coach and that means she had nothing to do with the identification, recruitment or development of any current UConn player.
Then again, Cardoza hoped the time would come when she began to identify herself more as the Owls’ head coach than one who spent 14 years on Aureimma’s bench as his assistant.
That time has come. But as much as she has enjoyed her new and successful career, Cardoza has also discovered the unrelenting aspects of being the boss, the one ultimately responsible for everything.
“I have so many books just waiting to be read,” Cardoza said. “But I simply can’t find the time to read any of them. My mind is always elsewhere. So I have to wait for the season to be over, although I did finish one during the Christmas break that had just 50 pages left.”
This week certainly was not the time to get caught up. Temple (8-6) plays its first conference game ever against UConn on Saturday in Bridgeport. And the since winning their first three games, the Owls have swayed back and forth since, losing one, winning one.
Cardoza, the 2010-11 Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year, got off to a great start, elected as Big 5 coach of the Year three times, leading the Owls to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and advancing to the Second Round in both 2010 and 2011.
It was in 2010 that she last ran into UConn in the second round of the Tournament in Norfolk, Va., The Huskies won by 54.
In 2011-12, Temple advanced to the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. She came into this season 50 games over .500 as a head coach with at least 20 wins in each of her first four seasons, including 25 wins in 2009-10 which tied for the second-most in the history of the program.
In 2010-11, the Owls finished 24-9 which included a 15-game win streak and a 13-1 record in the Atlantic 10. The 2011-12, Temple went 23-10 and won 14 in a row, once again with a 13-1 mark in the conference.
“Being a head coach has been very satisfying time for me, but it’s also a completely different role,” Cardoza said. “When you are an assistant coach you have things that you worry about. But you also have the ability to step away from them. As a head coach, you are never off. I can never step away to regroup.
“For me, it’s always, constantly watching film. When I was an assistant coach at UConn, there were only times when you weren’t assigned to do a scouting report [on an upcoming opponent] that you didn’t have to watch film. You could get caught up on something else that was important to you.
“But as a head coach, there just isn’t the time. I live in my computer watching film. I haven’t figured out to how to step away from it at all until the season is over. That’s the part I really didn’t pay much attention to when I was thinking what life would be like as a head coach.”
This year’s team has been heavily reliant on the starting five who have logged just about all of its important minutes and their play has been inconsistent.
“When I was at UConn, I can vividly remember looking at Coach [Auriemma] and he’s always look stressed,” Cardoza said. “I can remember thinking, ‘Hey, we just won this game by 30 points.’ But the thing was, he wasn’t worried about that particularly game. He was looking ahead. I find myself like that – always stressed, looking at the next thing. … You want to be great, not just satisfied with being OK or good. So you put so much pressure on yourself in anything or everything that you do.”
Cardoza says being a head coach also forced her to accept the different relationship she would have with the players. No longer would she be able to act as solely an intermediary; the friendly calming voice.
Now she was the disciplinarian and some players simply aren’t able to see their coach as anything else but that.
“Now Willnett Crockett [the former UConn player and Temple assistant] is enjoying that role,” Cardoza said. “She is one the players come to for reassurance. … I always have considered myself a player’s coach and never thought it [her relationship with players] would change. But it has.”
Still, Cardoza says she will make time this weekend for something important in her life. After the game, the team returns to Philadelphia.
“And I should be home in plenty of time to see the Patriots game,” she said.