Resilient – Webster defines it as: “to be able to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens”. After what happened to Texas-El Paso Head Coach Keitha Adams, her mother Sue and the Miner basketball team in the late portion of 2013, no doubt resilient is the perfect word to describe them.
In August 2013, Coach Adams’ father, Lowell, passed away. Lowell and Keitha’s Mom, Sue, were married for 56 years. During his last days, Lowell asked Keitha to promise to take her mother to Puerto Rico in December when the Miners traveled there for Sport Tours International’s Puerto Rico Classic. “I was going through a difficult, first time experience of just having lost my best friend,” recalled Sue Adams. “Being able to travel with the team gave me an opportunity to get a hands-on view of what my daughter’s responsibilities as a college basketball coach were all about.”
What Sue hadn’t anticipated was being able to experience, first hand, the unpredictability of team travel. The Miners were scheduled to arrive in San Juan on the evening of December 17th. Unfortunately, upon arriving at the El Paso airport, the team was told their flight from El Paso to Dallas had been canceled. After rebooking, they flew to Dallas later that evening. The next day, the team took a flight to Miami – the first of four flights on the day. The team arrived in San Juan on three separate flights; two arriving on the 18th, around 5pm and 8pm, and the last flight arriving at 12 a.m. on the 19th – two days and five flights later.
Coach Adams saw the silver lining in her team’s travel woes. “It’s always an adventure when you take a team on a trip. You usually face some challenges along the way and with that you learn a lot about each other”. In typical Adams’ keithafashion, her Mom and the team made the best of a rough situation. “The flight time and waiting in the airport gave us time to just be together and visit,” said Sue Adams. “It certainly was a change of pace from a daily regular routine. I also enjoyed being in the presence of 15 young ladies with such a fun-loving spirit.”
For the Coach Adams, seeing how the team bonded with her Mom was truly special. “The trip was a great way for us to experience some fun together. After losing a loved one, all the ‘first times’ without them are hard. The players really stepped in and got a chance to know my mother. I enjoyed seeing them get to know someone who is so important to me.”
Keitha’s father was a school teacher and bus driver. He spent his life teaching at the grade school level. The Coach Adams learned plenty from her dad. “He gave me loads of advice throughout the years,” Keitha said. “He was a very caring and compassionate person. I know his advice with teaching and working with young people has helped me today in my coaching profession. He was at every game when I played basketball and has been a big part of our UTEP program.”
Puerto-RicoLowell Adams knew what he was doing when he convinced his daughter to take her Mom to Puerto Rico. One of the highlights of the trip was when Sue, 77, and her daughter road a jet ski together. Another wonderful experience for Keitha came when she was able to introduce her team to a very important person in her life, Oklahoma State Head Coach Jim Littell, whose Cowgirls were also a Puerto Rico Classic participant. “I played for Coach Littell for five years through junior high and high school,” Keitha remembered. “He lost his Mother in November, so we had a chance to talk about our parents. I talk to my players often about ‘my Coach’ so it was special that I had a chance to introduce him to my players.”
On the basketball side of things, after the tough travel to San Juan, the Miners lost to Georgia Tech, 102-77. The following day, UTEP showed that resiliency and knocked off Belmont, 88-74. UTEP came back to El Paso a much-closer basketball team. Currently, the Miners have a 23-5 record, having won ten of its last eleven games.
Looking back, for the Miners and the Adams’ mother-daughter duo, the trip to Puerto Rico in December was more than just a basketball trip; it was an opportunity to grow together. Coach Adams put it this way: “As a person gets older, they usually get wiser. My father was always encouraging me to enjoy the journey. We get very stressed out in this competitive business. I have enjoyed this journey and the trip to Puerto Rico was definitely a great time for all of us.”