Targeting experience, Kara Lawson adds Tia Jackson to her Duke staff

Jackson was previously an assistant at Duke under Gail Goestenkors

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During her introductory virtual press conference, a reporter asked Kara Lawson what she would be looking for as she assembled her staff at Duke as a first-time head coach. She replied with one word: “Experience.”

Lawson has found someone with a wealth of knowledge in women’s college basketball with her first staff hire, bringing on Tia Jackson as an assistant coach.

Duke has not officially announced the hire yet, but Jackson — who was previously at Miami — changed her Twitter bio Tuesday night to “assistant coach, Duke University.” This confirms what one source close to the situation told The Next on Sunday. Another source said Duke would formally announce Lawson’s full staff on Friday.

For Jackson, 48, the move to Lawson’s staff marks her return to Duke, where she was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator from 2005 through 2007 under Gail Goestenkors. Duke went 31-4 in 2005-06 and made the NCAA tournament title game. The next season, the Blue Devils captured the regular season ACC title and made the Sweet 16. The Blue Devils signed top five recruiting classes in each of Jackson’s two years there.

Jackson and Goestenkors both left Duke that off-season. Goestenkors accepted an offer from Texas and Jackson landed her first head coaching gig at Washington. Jackson was still a dogged recruiter for the Huskies — signing the 11th best class in the nation in 2008 — but her teams didn’t have much success on the court. In her four seasons as head coach, Washington made the postseason once and never finished above .500 or better than sixth in the Pac-12.

After exiting Washington, Jackson became an assistant again under the coach she played for at Iowa, C. Vivian Stringer. From 2011 to 2015, Jackson helped Stringer’s Rutgers teams appear twice in the NCAA tournament and win a WNIT title in 2014.

Jackson then joined Katie Meier’s staff at Miami. In each of her Jackson’s first five seasons with the Hurricanes, they won at least 21 games and made the NCAA tournament. With Jackson’s help, seven Hurricanes received All-ACC honors and two were drafted into the WNBA.

The 2020-21 season will be Jackson’s 25th as a coach in Division I women’s college basketball. Before her first stint at Duke, she was also an assistant at VCU, Stanford and UCLA. She is widely regarded as a top recruiter.

Jackson grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and is arguably the region’s greatest high school girls player ever. Her Mardela teams — coached by the late, great Barbara McCool — appeared in two Maryland state final fours. In the 1990 semifinal, Jackson scored 44 of Mardela’s 52 points, and did so by making just one trip to the free throw line. Seven three-pointers aided her effort. She totaled 3,108 points in her career at Mardela and was an All-American as a senior.

She then went 1,004 miles away to Iowa to play for Stringer, helping the Hawkeyes make the Final Four in 1993. Upon her graduation, she ranked 10th all-time in rebounding at Iowa. She played one WNBA season in 1997 for Cheryl Miller and the Phoenix Mercury.