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A spirit that is not afraid

Coach Flo molding Auburn women's basketball into leaders on and off court

By the way she led Penn State women’s basketball to a pair of conference championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances in four years, it would be an easy assumption that Terri Williams-Flournoy was a player who had been grooming her game at a professional level for most of her life.

However, the only training the Hampton, Virginia native had prior to becoming a Nittany Lion was in high school.

“Back in my day, my brother was the first to [start playing] in our area,” Williams-Flournoy said in an interview with The Plainsman. “Before that, you just didn’t play summer basketball. You played high school, that was it.”

Now one of the most influential coaches in the nation, “Coach Flo” plays a massive role in developing the same talent pool she once molded herself in.

Coach Flo found herself at Georgetown University following her time in Happy Valley, first as an assistant from 1992-1996, then returning as the head coach in 2004 after assistant roles at Georgia and Missouri State.

As the head woman at Georgetown, Williams-Flournoy compiled a 143-104 overall record, including NCAA Tournament appearances in her final three seasons with the Hoyas. It wasn’t until 2012 when Coach Flo would arrive on The Plains for the first time as an Auburn Tiger.

Exposed to the overwhelming and inspiring idea of the “Auburn Family,” Williams-Flournoy was also introduced to the mentality of the Auburn woman, the description of which Coach Flo claims hasn’t changed since her first day at Auburn.

“You hear pride, you think of all the accomplishments over the years,” Williams-Flournoy said of her definition of an Auburn women. "It makes you proud to be a part of that same core."

On The Plains, Coach Flo is working to take the Tigers back to the glory days of Joe Ciampi, with a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances in the last two seasons.

Women have now been at Auburn University for 125 years, but their basketball program has only been around since 1971. Since the team’s inception, former coaches and players have paved the way for current success. Coach Flo recognized their accomplishments in light of the 125 Year celebration.

“You go into the practice gym and you see the legacy hanging on the ceiling,” Williams-Flournoy said. “Vickie Orr, Carolyn Jones, Ruthie Bolton. Coach [Joe] Ciampi comes by. It’s just unbelievable to see what Auburn women’s basketball has done over the past years. To think ‘wow, 125 years, that’s just unbelievable.”

An opportunity for her Auburn women that calls back to her roots, however, is becoming a theme for Auburn women’s basketball: setting examples for young athletes that look up to her team.

“One of our quotes in our books is ‘little eyes are watching,” Williams-Flournoy said. “[The team] understands that they are not only representing themselves, they’re representing Auburn women’s basketball.

“It’s such a growing sport in general. Youth basketball is huge now.”

While the team is experiencing success on the court, their influence off the court is held in high regard in the local Auburn community.

Williams-Flournoy knows that like any sport, women’s basketball brings with it generations of players that want to fill the legacy of the likes of older athletes, collegiate and professional.

“There’s a little girl out there watching you do everything,” Williams-Flournoy said. “From how you talk, to how you move, to how you dress, to how you do your hair, take pride in that.

As the head coach of an SEC squad that is watched more than most programs around the country, Coach Flo knows that her Auburn women are inspirations to youth basketball players everywhere.

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“Understand that there’s a little one there that probably wants to be just like you. How do you want her to be?”

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