Thomas-Swinson was an assistant at Florida

Updated: May 20, 2005, 4:38 PM ET
Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. -- Stressing excitement and promising defensive intensity, Charlene Thomas-Swinson said Friday she looked forward to the future as head women's basketball coach at Tulsa.

"I'm a defensive guru," Thomas-Swinson, 39, said after being introduced to program supporters and media by athletic director Judy MacLeod.

"I want to bring that defensive style of play here. I look forward to it."

Thomas-Swinson, who comes to Tulsa after three seasons as an assistant at Florida, inherits a rising program. Under Kathy McConnell-Miller, the Golden Hurricane won 19 games each of the past two seasons and qualified for the Women's National Invitational Tournament. McConnell-Miller, who left in April for the head coaching job at Colorado, was Tulsa's most successful women's coach with a 91-88 record over six seasons.

"Having a veteran group of young ladies that knows how to win is very exciting," said Thomas-Swinson, who's also been head coach at St. John's and an assistant with Auburn and the WNBA's Orlando Miracle.

"I do know that having players who know how to win is important."

Along with a new head coach for the first time since 1999, the Golden Hurricane also face the challenge of moving from the Western Athletic Conference to Conference USA.

Thomas-Swinson said she knew the team possessed the talent to handle the move and she praised McConnell-Miller for inspiring the competitive spirit the team needed.

"I'm very much looking forward to the opportunity the university has given me," she said.

The two biggest hurdles for any coach are winning and recruiting, and Thomas-Swinson said she was equipped for both. Thomas-Swinson said her experience in recruiting at Auburn from 1992 to 1996 and Florida from 2002 to 2005 provided a good start. The Gators' most recent recruiting class ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

"There are some kids in Texas I already had an eye on," Thomas-Swinson said. "Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, I don't think it is going to be that different."

Thomas-Swinson had limited success during a stint as head coach at St. John's. Her teams improved from five wins in 1996-97 to 13 wins two seasons later, but were only 24-61 during her three years in charge.

Thomas-Swinson said St. John's and Tulsa had little in common, except perhaps a tradition of success in men's basketball.

"The facilities, the university's commitment to athletics, the tradition is the only comparison I can make," she said.

Emily Jaskowiak, who appeared in 23 games as a junior last season, said the strong bond among teammates would help keep the team on a winning track and possibly get Tulsa into the NCAA tournament.

"It's a new coach and a new conference, but it's the same group of players," Jaskowiak said. "I know she talked about learning to crawl before running, but I think I'm ready to jump hurdles."

Thomas-Swinson and her husband, Aaron Swinson, have one son, Charles. Both Thomas-Swinson and her husband played college basketball at Auburn. Swinson played for the Phoenix Suns in 1994-95 and has played basketball in Europe for the past 10 seasons.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press