ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - When a position opened up on the UCF women's basketball team staff this spring, Courtney Locke was swayed most not by returning to the program she helped claim two conference championships with or the familiar faces.
No, it was the promise of ordering her favorite beverage that sealed the deal for the Knights' former assistant.
"I missed the sweet tea. That's really what it was all about," Locke said with a smile.
When Bob Starkey left for a coaching position with Texas A&M, it allowed Locke to return to Orlando after spending a year at UC-Santa Barbara. UCSB head coach Carlene Mitchell was a former assistant at Rutgers during Locke's playing days, and she also reunited with a Scarlet Knight teammate as a fellow assistant coach for the Gauchos.
"Sometimes you have to go and experience something to realize what a great thing is. I didn't realize how much I would miss Orlando and coach (Joi Williams) and UCF," Locke said. "I really, really felt like UCF was my school. I had the opportunity to come back and definitely couldn't pass on it."
While at UCF from 2008-11, Locke was new to the coaching game. She described herself as a sponge, absorbing whatever knowledge she could from Williams and former associate head coach Greg Brown.
"Joi really took care of me and let me grow as a coach," Locke said. "I learned a ton from Coach Brown as far as scouts and game management and preparation. Coach (Williams) gave me the freedom to work with the guards and learn on the fly. She would pull me in when things weren't right, but she really gave me freedom and I really appreciated that and learned so much."
When she accepted the position at Santa Barbara, she was no longer the new kid on the block. Instead, she became the teacher and she believes the experience will help her in her role this year with the Knights.
"When I was at UCF, I had to take what I learned and go teach and help others. I had different responsibilities," Locke said. "I think coming back, just having that experience and having to delegate, having to help others and really just making sure that Coach and this program is taken care of."
So how much has changed in the year since she's been away?
"The whole staff," Locke said laughing. "But coach knows how to hire the right people - people that believe in her and what we're doing."
The Knights also are transitioning from their final season in C-USA to the BIG EAST - a conference that Locke has a plethora of experience in as a player. She was a part of the 2005-06 squad that posted an undefeated 16-0 mark in conference play.
"Playing in it will be strange at times, going back to my old stomping grounds, but it's a challenge, and I think one thing that coach is amazing at is stepping up to the challenge," Locke said. "No one would have ever thought that we'd win Conference USA. We've done it twice so far. No one is going to think we're going to do anything in the BIG EAST, but that's a challenge for us that we're excited about."