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Getting to Know ... Molly Tideback

Molly Tideback was hired earlier this month as Grayson's new girls basketball coach after a playing and coaching career that took her all over the globe.

A first-team USA Today All-American as a high school senior in Iowa, Tideback was a highly sought-after recruit and decided to go to UCLA. She later transferred back to her home state and finished her collegiate career playing for the Hawkeyes and coach Vivian Stringer.

The 6-foot-3 Tideback played professionally in the WNBA and in Europe. She also coached Belgium's 15-year-old national team before returning to the U.S. Since coming back, Tideback has been a coach and teacher in Illinois, Texas and, most recently, at Pebblebrook in Cobb County.

Tideback spoke with staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including her coaching influences, injuries and having to chase her Chihuahua around the neighborhood, in this installment of "Getting to know ...."

CT: First, where did you grow up?

MT: Iowa. Waterloo, Iowa.

CT: Your whole life?

MT: Yeah, well, born in Clarion, Iowa. Lived in Belmond, Iowa, a very small town, until I was 9 and moved to Waterloo. And then that's where I got my start in basketball, at the middle school there.

The P.E. teacher kind of grabbed me and pulled me aside.

CT: So you were tall even then?

MT: Yeah, I've always been tall. Since I was in kindergarten, I've always been taller than everybody. I think in the eighth grade I was 6-2.

CT: Are your parents tall? Siblings?

MT: My mom is 5-7 and my dad is 6-foot. And my brother is 6-4.

CT: So it's somewhere in the genes.

MT: I think we got it from my dad's side.

CT: You were 6-2 in the eighth grade? Like middle school isn't hard enough? I'm sure it helps to be six or seven inches taller than everybody else, including all the boys who haven't hit their growth spurt yet.

MT: And then I ended up getting the chicken pox, too, in eighth grade. Horrible. I was so sick. And I also went to a Catholic school so I had to wear little skirts all the time. Not fun (laughing).

CT: Do you have any hard and fast rule about having to date guys that are taller than you?

MT: (Laughing) No.

CT: You ruled that out?

MT: Yeah. That didn't work. Ever. They were always shorter. So were all my friends.

CT: Well ... that's pretty much a given right?

MT: The only time that I felt short was when I played for the Detroit Shock in the WNBA. Then when I came back to my original, everyday life, I felt like a giant. Because professional athletes, you don't realize how big they are.

CT: The first time I saw Michael Jordan in person I was like, 'He's gigantic.' But you look at him out there and he just doesn't look, obviously he's tall, but on TV he doesn't because he surrounded by guys that are 7-feet tall.

MT: Yeah, he's huge. We did a photo shoot with him actually. He was going to be part of one of our team posters. He walked in with B.J. Armstrong. B.J. he was probably 6-1, 6-2, so you think he's little, but he's not. Then Jordan. And I mean, what do you even call him? Michael? Mr. Jordan?

They were playing an exhibition game in Iowa.

CT: So they came out to the college?

MT: Yeah, they came to our locker room and they took a picture with the whole team. The saying was going to be "Come fly with us," but Nike wouldn't let us.

CT: You were a first-team USA Today All-American as a senior in Iowa. What was that season like?

MT: It was great. My mom had given me all my stuff from high school and I look back and our team was ranked fourth in the nation and every single one of my teammates got a Division I scholarship. I didn't know. I did not know that we were that good. You look back and, wow, we really were that good.

We would always make it to state and make it to the finals, but couldn't win that big game. I do not know why. I have no idea why.

CT: Even after all these years?

MT: No. I mean, we could just never win that big game. So it was bittersweet.

But I had made my decision my junior year to go to UCLA. So I really didn't have the bothersome calls and everything from all the colleges my senior year. So that was nice.

Back then they could call anytime. There were no rules. Now they can only call during certain months and all that. My phone was ringing off the wall constantly.

CT: So you went to UCLA for a while?

MT: I went to UCLA for a year and a half. I was Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, made the USA Sports Festival West team while at UCLA. And then I had a real severe ankle injury. It didn't get taken care of properly. It was just a bad situation and I missed home. So I ended up transferring back to Iowa halfway through the year, over Christmas break.

CT: Had Iowa recruited you?

MT: Oh, yeah. Heavily.

CT: Was Vivian Stringer the coach?

MT: Yes and they recruited me heavily. I know it was a disappointment to them when I didn't go there. Then when I came back, she made me fight for that position.

They didn't have a scholarship for me at the time so I had to pay for a semester. Of course I had to sit out a year. When you transfer you have to do that.

So I had to go through some hard times, but I was happy to be home.

CT: How many years did you end up playing at Iowa?

MT: I ended up playing '91 to '93. And in 1993 we were here in Atlanta in the Final Four. Which is just hilarious. I've gone the full circle back here to Atlanta. And we had beaten Tennessee, by 17 points, to go to the Final Four. So yeah, that was nice.

CT: Certainly everybody now recognizes Pat Summitt and I think probably they also recognize Vivian Stringer. She's a hugely accomplished coach, 800 wins and all that.

MT: Taking three teams (from different schools) to the Final Four.

CT: What was your experience playing for her like?

MT: It was unbelievable. She made us understand the game better than anyone. Huge motivator. Made us proud to be Iowa Hawkeyes. We never went into a game feeling like we were going to lose. Even in situations where it didn't seem like we could pull it out, we always felt confident that we would.

She just brought this air of pride and classiness. I think it transfered to all of us. Everything that we had or earned, it had to be worked for. We had the best of the best, locker rooms, everything, but we had to work for that.

And her, teaching me the game, being a sponge as a player and really understanding the game, she was the top coach that I think made that possible.

She allowed us also, as players, to interject and say, 'OK, this isn't working Coach.' It was player-coach, everybody had an input in the game. I think that's the biggest thing I took from her. And to be a good role model for your players.

CT: Do you remember your top point total from high school, for a game?

MT: Uh, 59? I think.

CT: What about college?

MT: Twenty-seven maybe? Something like that. It was at UCLA against Washington. Sorry.

CT: (who is from Washington) It's OK.

CT: So you played in Detroit in the WNBA and just in Belgium or were there any other countries in Europe?

MT: I played in Belgium, but we went to France and Germany, just traveled all over Europe. And then I played in Turkey for a year. I went there after Detroit because I knew that's where most of these WNBA players would go.

And I ended up actually running into some players that made the Detroit team after I got cut. I actually went against them and was fine. They were like, 'I don't know why you got cut.' I'm like, 'Me either.'

But I had no agent. I was doing everything on my own. Things become political. They just do. That's life. So I was in Turkey for a year and I was planning on coming back and trying out for the Indiana Fever. Which I did.

And I sprained my ankle the day before I went (to tryouts). Horribly. I went to the tryout and I was in the best shape ever. I was killing people. But they knew that I had the bad ankle.

I was still playing and still doing everything, doing well, but I had already sprained my ankle. So I got cut. I made it to the last cut.

CT: Did you first start making the transition from playing to coaching when you were in Europe?

MT: It was part of my contract. Of course when I was at Iowa, we ran basketball camps. That was great too, to be around different coaches at different levels.

But once I went overseas to Belgium, it was part of my contract that I had to coach, they were little 7-, 8-year-olds that did not speak English. They spoke French.

They taught me everything, I taught them everything. It was a great time. That's when I realized I really wanted to be a coach.

Each year I moved up and I ended up, my last year in Belgium, they wanted me to coach the cadet national team of 15-year-olds. It was a select team and I think they maybe lost four games. It was nice. It was a good time.

CT: Where have you lived in the States since you came back from overseas?

MT: You want a list?

CT: Maybe just states?

MT: OK. I lived in Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Texas and Georgia.

CT: You must be good at moving.

MT: Very good. I hate it. I'm not moving anymore. I'm staying right here forever. I'll be the oldest teacher at Grayson if I have to be.

CT: How did you end up at Grayson? You were at Pebblebrook?

MT: Actually, one of my good friends' son went to Grayson. I liked the area, liked the homes in the area and just decided to move out to Grayson. I passed my resume on to different schools one day and waited to see if something happened. And it did.

I live like an eighth of a mile down the road.

CT: Your degree is in art, is that what you're teaching here?

MT: No. I have an art degree and then I have a bachelors in special education. So I do English and reading. And I'm currently working on my master's in administration and leadership.

CT: What's the best art museum you've been to?

MT: My own? No, I'm just kidding. I don't have one.

Um, I never went to the Louvre. When I went to Paris, nobody knew where to go so we drove there and saw Whitney Houston in concert, which was cool.

CT: You went to Paris and saw Whitney Houston, but not the Louvre?

MT: Yes. We did.

CT: Dog or cat?

MT: Dog. Definitely.

CT: Do you have one?

MT: I have four. Two (Chihuahuas) and two spaniels. I have a 3.2-pound Chihuahua named Sophie. She's feisty. She's very sweet.

I look really funny walking her.

CT: You have to take the other dogs along.

MT: They go on their own separate walk, then she goes. And she loves to run. If she gets loose it's hilarious. I'm chasing her through the neighborhood and people are just cracking up. There's Tideback again, chasing that Chihuahua.

CT: Beach or mountains?

MT: Beach.

CT: East Coast or West?

MT: Ugh. Midwest.

CT: What's worse, the winters up North or the summers down South?

MT: Winters up North.

CT: What sport other than your own do you like best?

MT: I love biking. I love the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong. He's my hero.

I did a Lance Armstrong series (of art works) on the Tour. I sold two of them for the breast cancer society and raised $4,000 for them. He actually included a signed T-shirt. I thought I was going to get to meet him, but it never happened.

Two people in Texas have my artwork on their wall in their home. It's so strange to me.