Diane Richardson would not have stood where she did Friday, being introduced as Towson’s women’s basketball coach inside SECU Arena, if she did not mind the grind of the profession. She has swept floors, has taken out trash — whatever it took to earn her first head coaching job.
But the onetime Bank of America official does not mind reminiscing about what she left behind decades ago.
“The private jet,” she said wistfully. There were also the personal secretaries, of course. Oh, and the fine dining.
Richardson, 58, was hired Wednesday to elevate the Tigers to the Colonial Athletic Association’s higher class. Former coach Niki Reid Geckeler’s four years in charge were a struggle, starved for success, never finishing with more than 13 wins in a season or in the top half of the league standings. Only the College of Charleston has as few CAA victories since 2014.
In Richardson, Towson has a coach who took “kind of a nontraditional route to getting to this point,” athletic director Tim Leonard said. For a program that’s never won a CAA regular-season or tournament title, much less been a runner-up, nontraditional might be a good point to start.
“I think that'll give her added depth and experience that will allow her to be very successful as the CEO of the Towson women's basketball program,” Leonard said.
Even when she worked in Morgantown as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Big 12 champion West Virginia last season, Richardson kept her Ellicott City house. Maryland has long been home.
A track and basketball star at Largo High, in Prince George’s County, Richardson competed in both at Frostburg State, graduating in 1980. After receiving a master’s degree in management and finance from Central Michigan four years later, she took care of business: Founded RCI Financial in Lanham. Worked for American Security Companies. Got a vice-president title at Bank of America.
On the side, there was basketball; Richardson also started an Amateur Athletic Union team that became a national power. One day, she came home, needing to talk to her husband. It was about her day job, and quitting it.
“‘Honey, you know I've done some of these things, but I really, really want to get out of the business and I want to go with my passion,’” she recalled saying. “And my passion was to coach.”
After five dominant seasons at Riverdale Baptist in the early 2000s, she was named an assistant coach at American, then at Maryland. Following another stint at Riverdale Baptist, she took an assistant job at George Washington before leaving for West Virginia.
When Geckeler stepped down as coach on June 22, “our doors just were beaten down” by interested candidates, Leonard said. “As one of the candidates informed me during the search process, they said, 'Well, you do realize you're the only job that's open right now, so everybody in the country is gunning for yours.'”
Richardson was not his top choice for the job, not at first. But when she showed up at the school, graduated Tigers guard Dominique Johnson, whom she had coached at Riverdale Baptist, all but tackled her out of joy. And when Leonard met her, learned her life story, saw how she’d succeeded in basketball and then finance and then basketball again, heard how she wanted to recruit the state where she had grown up, he was convinced.
College basketball “literally changed my life,” Richardson said. “I went away to college and I saw what life could be, and I turned that around and started my business, so I know what it can be.”