EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – In 2017, Keitha Adams left UTEP to return home to Wichita State. Six years later, she left her home to come back to her second home.
Adams was officially re-introduced as UTEP’s head women’s basketball coach in a ceremony on Wednesday at the Don Haskins Center. The Miners’ all-time winningest coach returns to El Paso looking to lead UTEP back to the NCAA Tournament, a place they haven’t been since Adams took them there in 2012.
She arrived to her introduction with her mother and a bevy of fans who remember her 16 years at UTEP from 2001-2017 very fondly. Adams is clearly very fond of El Paso, too, a city she fell in love with the first time she was with the Miners.
“When you have so many fond memories, so many relationships and you love something and it’s in your soul, your heart beats a little faster because of that,” Adams said. “Really it’s the love, the community and the connection I felt here that drew me back.”
Adams still had one year left on her contract at Wichita State for the 2023-24 season and per her contract, Wichita State is due a buyout payment of around $250,000, according to the Wichita Eagle. However, it’s commonplace for the hiring school to pay the buyout, which will fall on UTEP.
She was also set to be paid $375,000 in her final season with the Shockers; the recently-resigned Kevin Baker made around $250,000 his last year at UTEP. Contract details were not immediately available, but Adams will sign a six-year deal to return to UTEP.
When Baker suddenly resigned last week, UTEP immediately began a coaching search. Athletic director Jim Senter said that Baker’s associate head coach Todd Buchanan also got a look for the head coaching position, before they ultimately went Adams’ way.
Senter initially said he called Adams to see if she had any candidate ideas for UTEP. That’s when she threw her own name in the mix.
“She asked me, ‘What about me?’ I thought she was messing with me for a second, but then I realized she was serious and we started talking from there,” Senter said. “Keitha checks all the boxes for us. We’re just delighted that she would come back home.”
Adams had multiple former players on-hand for her re-introduction, including WNBA star Kayla Thornton, who graduated from Irvin and now plays for the New York Liberty.
Current players were also in attendance, including stars Elina Arike and Jazion Jackson, the latter of whom entered the NCAA Transfer Portal on Tuesday.
Adams spoke directly to the current Miners during her introduction, outlining the ways that she would help them, both as players and as people if they chose to stay and play for her.
Then, Thornton could be seen after the introduction speaking with the current players about Adams’ coaching style.
“She’s going to bring what she taught me, which is just being a dog, being competitive and just getting after things,” Thornton said. “I’m so excited she’s coming back to UTEP.”
Adams said multiple times that she wants to build on the season UTEP had in 2022-23 in Kevin Baker’s final year with the Miners, a 20-win campaign that ended in the WNIT.
She’s already hard at work; Adams went straight from her press conference to meetings with current players to discuss their futures at UTEP. As far as a coaching staff, Adams didn’t get into specifics, but said that fans would like who she was bringing to UTEP with her.