Megan Byford wishes she could throw her knee pads back on and go bang in the paint for Oklahoma State.
But she'll settle for her new role on the Cowgirl bench.
After one-year stints as an assistant coach at Northern Oklahoma-Enid and as a graduate assistant at Pittsburg State in Kansas, Byford is back at OSU as a graduate assistant, where her duties range from organizing meals on road trips to distributing recruiting materials to assisting coaches. She'll finish her Master's in education with a concentration in curriculum studies in May.
Byford talked with The Oklahoman's Gina Mizell about her new responsibilities, why she recently apologized to Cowgirl coach Jim Littell and where she expects her coaching career to go after this season.
When did you know you wanted to get into coaching?
I've known for a long time. I love basketball, and it kind of gave me, I don't want to say an identity, but it just gave me an opportunity in life that I probably wouldn't have had otherwise. So I've always wanted to give back to the sport and give other girls that opportunity that I had. There are so many lessons basketball teaches you about life. I love the game. I love what it teaches you. I love the camaraderie between coaches and players.
After your time at Northern Oklahoma-Enid and Pittsburg State, how'd you wind back up at OSU?
I was actually planning on going back to Pittsburg to be a GA there again the next season, and Coach Littell just kind of called me out of the blue and was like, ‘I have a GA spot opening. Are you interested?' I said, ‘I'll be there on Monday.' I knew I wanted to be back here. It's closer to home. This is family. My heart is in Stillwater, so it was a no-brainer decision for me.
What's the biggest thing you've learned on the OSU staff this season?
I feel bad for all the things I put my coaches through when I was a player. I've learned that you pull your hair out a little more on this side than you did on the other side. It's so funny, because as a player, you just look at things like ‘What's the big deal?' And then on this side, you're like, ‘Oh my gosh, that is a big deal. Get it together.' I have actually apologized to Coach Littell (and said), ‘I'm sorry for some of the boneheaded things that I did that I know probably drove you crazy. I see it now.'
Toni Young and Lindsey Keller were freshmen when you were a senior. Is it odd to be coaching former teammates?
Yes and no. I think I have a connection with them that's definitely helpful for them knowing, ‘Hey I've been through this. I'm not just telling you this to tell you. I'm telling you because I was your teammate, and now I'm trying to help you as a coach.' I think also being gone for two years, I always kept in touch with them, but it also helped create that separation of ‘OK, I'm not your teammate anymore. I can't come hang out with you anymore. I'm on the other side of things now.' And they respected that and understood that.
What happens next for you after this season?
Honestly, I have no idea. Hopefully finding another assistant coaching position or some kind of position in the women's basketball field. I would love to stay at the Division I level. There's part of me that's kind of like ‘Oh, you should be really worried. You don't know what you're going to do.' But there's also this part of me, I'm very strong in my faith. The ride so far, God has put me exactly where I need to be and taken me exactly where I've needed to go. I guess I have faith in that, you know what, I'm not going to stress about it. Because the right opportunity, He's going to open, He's going to take me and He's going to lead me where I need to be.
No. 23 Oklahoma State at TCU
*When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
*Where: Daniel Meyer Coliseum, Fort Worth, Texas
*Radio: KGFY-FM 105.5
Three things to know
*All seven of OSU's Big 12 victories have come by double figures, while six of TCU's league losses have come by single digits.
*This game will match two of the Big 12's top freshmen in OSU's Brittney Martin and TCU's Zahna Medley.
*This will be OSU's second trip to TCU in program history.