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What makes coaches at North Texas stand out from the crowd?

What makes coaches at North Texas stand out from the crowd?

Head softball coach Tracey Kee heads into her fifth season with UNT. Kee coached 16 season at East Carolina before coming to UNT. Cameron Roe

What makes coaches at North Texas stand out from the crowd?
October 05
00:03 2017

In the words of the great Kanye West, “Name one genius that ain’t crazy.”

That phrase fits well into the world of college athletics. At the collegiate level, coaches are constantly getting new players to coach and teach their system to while almost always fighting for their job and trying to please rabid fan bases. Coaches have been working their whole lives for this opportunity to coach and compete on the highest level. So if they seem a little different, it’s understandable.

There are variances of signature moves or tendencies among coaches that help establish their identity. Just about every coach has something unusual, and sometimes crazy, they do, and their players are the first to see it. Here are seven coaches at North Texas and what makes them stand out:

The normal signatures

Grant McCasland, men’s basketball

As Grant McCasland enters his first year leading the North Texas men’s basketball team, his players have noticed a protruding theme with him in everything the Mean Green do as a team.

It’s not too uncommon among coaches, but after every practice and workout of any sort, the team huddles and prays. McCasland’s dedication to faith is evident on his Twitter account and in his home, and his optimism is contagious because of it. It’s something that’s already making an impact on a team that has struggled over the last few years.

“Our motto is ‘we believe, we serve, we compete,’” sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart said. “When practice is done he’ll pray for us, for the season and for everyone to stay healthy, so you definitely see [his faith].”

Tracey Kee, softball

In softball, head coach Tracey Kee wrapped up her fourth season with the Mean Green last year. In games, she can be seen as the third base coach with her hands behind her back and her visor on – but her players see a different signature from her. It’s something she drinks everyday, both on and off the field.

“Diet Coke,” junior utility player Harley Parella said. “She has at least two at practice and three per game. The coaches all have their certain drinks and Coach Kee’s is definitely Diet Coke.”

Every game, the ice cooler at the edge of the bench is where Kee stashes her Diet Cokes. At practice, seeing one in the dugout is almost a guarantee.

The kind-of-odd signatures

Andrew Palileo, volleyball

In a similar fashion to Kee, Andrew Palileo needs a specific drink everyday. But his drink of choice is both harder to find and more expensive. Junior setter Karley York sees his tedious drink preference on a daily basis and especially on road trips.

“He always has to have an chai iced tea, with whole milk and five extra pumps of chai from Starbucks,” York said. “If we forget it, we have to get him one in exchange to get our stuff back.”

The junior team captain thinks it helps him wake up, but his precision in his daily drink is still a unique and comical preference to the volleyball players.

Jalie Mitchell, women’s basketball

Jalie Mitchell’s desk is never messy. And to be more specific, there’s usually not a single thing out of place while she’s there. As she goes into her third season at North Texas, her players have certainly noticed her unusually high need for cleanliness in everything she does.

“I don’t want to say she has OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder] because I’m not a doctor, but she definitely has super neat tendencies,” sophomore guard Callie Owens said. “She loves everything to be perfect and that carries over into practice as well.”

From having a shoe cabinet for guests in her house to organizing her movie cabinet alphabetically, Mitchell never stops trying to perfect anything and everything both on and off the court.

That may be why she’s one of the greatest basketball players to ever play for North Texas, and she certainly plays a role in the improvement the women’s basketball program has seen over the last few years.

John Hedlund, soccer

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the laid back and established Hedlund, who has led North Texas women’s soccer since 1995.

At practices he chats it up with his players and coaches, but he has an unusual tendency that always throws players for a loop when they’re talking to him.

“His one word comments would be the biggest thing to me,” senior defender Tori Phillips said. “You’ll ask him a question and he’ll be joking around, and then he’ll say something random completely off topic and you kind of look at him like, ‘What did you just say?’”

For example:

“We’ll be like, ‘Where do you want us to go?’ and he’ll just say, ‘Hit the Quan,’” Phillips said. “It’s just funny stuff like that. He’ll say anything just off the top of the head [in practice].”

In games, he’s more locked in so players don’t hear it much. At practice, though, Hedlund will make his players laugh just by saying a random phrase out of nowhere.

The crazy signatures

Sujay Lama, tennis

Lama always has fun with his players and anyone else he encounters, but he’s always professional and cordial.

However, once he hits the road, he’s a different person.

“The funniest thing is when we have a trip and he spends too much time around us, he starts behaving like a teenage boy,” junior Maria Kononova said. “Especially when we win and he’s in a great mood.”

Junior Tamuna Kutubidze added even more to what her teammate said about their energetic coach. His personality usually comes out on the road or at tournaments.

“He has this really funny dancing move,” Kutubidze said. “I don’t even know how to explain it.”

The energy and humor is contagious to his players and has created a fun culture on this talented team.

Seth Littrell, football

Littrell, meanwhile, was a menacing full back at the University of Oklahoma back in his playing days. Even to this day, little has changed in that regard in his second coaching season at North Texas.

For a man who does not waste words, his actions on the sideline are his signature. Especially one move in particular demonstrating the strength that led to his successful collegiate career.

“When someone makes a mistake, you’ll see the headset come off real fast and he’ll just start flexing,” sophomore quarterback Mason Fine said. “So you know he’s mad because he’s flexing right at you.”

Instead of chewing players out and cursing at them, Littrell opts to simply tense up his body before relaxing and talking to his players, something his players appreciate.

Senior linebacker Joshua Wheeler summarized coaches perfectly after he finished laughing at his head coach Seth Littrell for his signature move.

“Coaches, man,” Wheeler said. “They just love the game.”

Featured Image: Head softball coach Tracey Kee heads into her fifth season with North Texas. Kee coached 16 seasons at East Carolina University before coming to UNT. Cameron Roe

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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