For UTC women’s basketball coach Jim Foster —who recently got his 900th victory—his greatest accomplishments are his student-athletes’ successes after college and basketball.
“It’s where I get my greatest fulfillment,” Foster said.
Foster progressed last month to 900 career wins with UTC’s 58-41 victory over Western Carolina at McKenzie Arena.
He’s the eighth Division I women’s basketball coach to reach 900 career wins and one of 18 men’s and women’s NCAA Division I coaches to reach that mark.
But Foster viewed the 900 win milestone as more of a hurdle than celebration. He was just ready to be able to turn the focus back to the team, he said.
“It lasted too long; I wanted to get it over with,” Foster said. “It was just a relief to get it over with and get the team functioning…the way that they are capable of.”
Foster has had an illustrious career, guiding his teams to 28 postseason appearances.
He’s been a women’s basketball coach for about 40 years now. From his first college head coaching gig at St. Joseph’s to perhaps his most noteworthy tenures at Vanderbilt and Ohio State, Foster has won everywhere he’s been.
He is the second collegiate coach, men’s or women’s, to achieve 200 wins with three different schools. He has mentored seven WNBA draft picks and three All-Americans.
Foster also led the Vanderbilt Commodores women’s team to the 1993 Final Four. He is the eighth fastest coach to eclipse the 900th win mark, doing it in 1,242 games, and was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Foster’s players have also earned awards for their work in the classroom, with several earning academic honors, including the H. Boyd McWhorter Award, which is presented to the top men’s and women’s scholar-athletes of the year for the Southeastern Conference.
Off-the-court experience proves valuable in coaching
Foster’s first experience with coaching came while he was still a student at Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia, Penn.
“I was nudged in that direction,” he said. “I began coaching my power [Catholic Youth Organization] team and there was an inner-city program in West Philly and I was asked to coach a team there. I did both of these while I was a junior in high school.”
After high school, Foster enlisted in the Army in 1966. He served for three years, with a lot of that time spent in the Vietnam War.
Foster’s experience in the military played an important role in preparing him to lead others as a basketball coach.
“I thought I was better educated to what the world was,” Foster said. “I think that helped me a lot.”
Foster would return home and attend Temple University, where he graduated in 1980.
Early in his coaching career, Foster also worked as a bartender, where he gained valuable experience observing and communicating with different types of people. He spent 12 years behind the bar.
He credits the lessons he learned there with helping him become a better coach.
“You better work ahead of yourself,” Foster said, explaining his experience behind the bar. “You better cut enough lemons and limes that if people order drinks with those things, you have them. A lot of that’s coaching. You better be prepared. You better be ready for anything that comes along the pike.”
Kyle Yager is a contributing writer. He currently attends UTC, where he is the sports editor for the student newspaper, The University Echo. He has also worked as a scouting intern for the UTC football team and currently works as a runner at Grant, Konvalinka & Harrison PC. Kyle intends to attend law school in the fall. You can reach Kyle at [email protected]