UE’s Epps wasn’t always a women’s coach

Oties Epps

UE women’s basketball coach Oties Epps describes himself as a “teacher of the game.”

“And we’ve got a lot of great students here,” he said Monday at the Aces’ media day, which overlapped with a women’s practice.

Epps moved between talking to his team and reporters inside the Fifth Third Basketball Facility. His team has its own gym to show off. Players now have lounge space. Coaches have new office spaces.

The only thing left to do is win as a women’s head coach at the Division I level — a place Epps didn’t necessarily see himself when he started his post-graduate career as a men’s coach.

Epps played three years at NAIA Mount Senario College, where he was a small-college first-team All-American and earned all-conference honors every season. He finished up at Wisconsin-Stout and, while earning a master’s degree in education, served as an assistant coach for the school’s Division III squad.

NCAA rules during that time also allowed Epps to coach a girls’ AAU team during the summer. He met a number of college coaches that way as his girls went through recruitment.

“And then one year the Cleveland State head coach had a job opening,” Epps said. “She called me up, asked me if I was interested, and initially all I was thinking was that it’s Division I. That’s kind of how I got into it, and once I got into it I just fell in love with the women’s game.”

Epps coached three years at UW-Stout, four years at Cleveland State and three more as an assistant on the women’s staff at Wisconsin before coming to UE for the 2011-2012 season.

He hasn’t had a second thought about switching from the men’s to women’s game.

“They just want to learn,” Epps said. “They want to do things the right way. It wasn’t even like that. Even in Division III, guys think they’re going to the NBA. It’s nice to be somewhere and be able to teach the game.”