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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Ashley Langford has become Stony Brook royalty, and for good reason

Head coach Ashley Langford (center) talks to her team during a practice on Sunday, Oct. 22. Langford’s contract was recently extended as she enters her third year with Stony Brook. BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN

After an electric first two years at the helm, Stony Brook women’s basketball head coach Ashley Langford is officially here to stay for the long run. She has more than proved her worth since arriving on the scene in 2021, leading the Seawolves to 41 wins, votes in the national polls and the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT).

Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron saw all he needed to see and extended Langford’s contract through the end of the 2027-28 season, ensuring that Stony Brook’s young stud is here to stay.

Langford is thankful for the support from her higher-ups, especially through the bumps in the road.

“I really think that Shawn and Debbie [DeJong] are awesome,” Langford said in an interview with The Statesman. “There’s a lot of challenges and there’s a lot of things that I didn’t know. I think in my first year, I got hit with a lot of challenges that maybe some head coaches never do, and I got them all in one year.”

Though Langford’s rookie season was loaded with roadblocks — such as her team being banned from the America East Conference playoffs and the late-season fallout — she has been fighting through adversity since the day she was born.

Langford grew up in Harrisburg, Pa. alongside her older sister Jessica. Their mother suffered from mental illness, forcing them to be raised by their father, Sterling. Though Langford’s mother was not in the picture, her relatives were, and they helped Sterling take care of the girls.

“Obviously I had some adversity just with [my mother],” Langford said. “But never really felt like I didn’t have what I needed.”

Langford’s father is an older man who grew up in Waco, Texas and is now 78 years old. He is a Black man who grew up right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement in America, served in the military and got a job as a postal inspector. He was able to provide himself with a good living by taking his education seriously and learning strong discipline.

“My dad was really my backbone, and he supported me in everything,” Langford said. “I owe a lot of who I am to him. His journey and how much he valued education was instilled to me from the beginning, and it doesn’t really matter where you’re from. It’s about how you can pave your own path.”

As a child, Langford gravitated towards sports. She played just about everything, including baseball and football. She also did ballet, swimming, and gymnastics.

In fact, ballet was her original passion.

“Ballet was my first love,” Langford said. “I went all the way until it was time to get toe shoes, and thank God I stopped, otherwise my feet would be a wreck.”

Langford only got into basketball by happenstance. Her next-door neighbor used to babysit her when she was a child, and the boys in the house would play pickup outside with the other kids on the block. Wanting to stay involved, she would play against the other boys.

By the time she was eight years old, she had fully ditched her leotard and tutu for a jersey and basketball shoes. She joined her local 10-and-under Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team in Harrisburg. When she was 13 years old, she joined the historic Philadelphia Belles AAU team. She stuck with the Belles through the rest of her high school career.

Langford also played four years of high school varsity girl’s basketball. She spent her first three years at Central Dauphin High School before transferring to Harrisburg High School for her senior year. Her performance as a point guard in both AAU and varsity basketball caught the attention of several NCAA Division I schools. The one that won her over was Tulane University in New Orleans.

Langford had a historic run at Tulane. Under future Hall of Fame coach Lisa Stockton, she became one of the greatest players in program history. Langford started in all 121 games of her four-years with the Green Wave. She is the program’s all-time assists and assists per game leader with 722 and 6.0, respectively. Her assists total ranks second all-time in Conference USA’s history.

Her 121 starts and 4,162 minutes played are also Tulane career records. However, that record only came to be because of an unorthodox circumstance.

“My thought process as a freshman is that I just want to play minutes,” Langford said. “So then, one of my teammates — the starting point guard — she ends up getting pregnant. Now it’s my turn.”

However, her introduction to college was spoiled due to the destruction that Hurricane Katrina had ravaged on New Orleans in August 2005. Langford and her teammates wound up being displaced for the fall 2005 semester and had to take their classes at Texas Tech University.

By Dec. 18, 2005, Tulane women’s basketball became the first team to resume activities in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. After finally being able to take the court, Langford wound up leading the Green Wave to four consecutive winning seasons, a regular season title in 2006-07 and the 2007 WNIT.

In May 2009, she graduated from Tulane with a double major in business management and marketing. During Langford’s senior year, Stockton approached her with the idea of getting into the coaching business. She offered Langford a chance to join the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association “So You Want To Be A Coach” program: a workshop that offers advice and networking opportunities to aspiring female coaches.

Langford originally had no interest in coaching. However, those who were accepted into the program would receive a scholarship to attend graduate school. With the prospect of getting her master’s in business administration (MBA) for free, Langford accepted the opportunity, which opened the door for her next career.

Langford impressed during the workshop and was accepted into Auburn University, where she worked on her MBA and became a graduate assistant to then-head coach Nell Fortner.

While on Fortner’s staff, Langford helped with recruiting players, which helped her discover the competitive passion that comes with being an NCAA coach.

“I first got competitive with recruiting,” Langford said. “We’re trying to recruit top-50 players in the nation. I’m helping the recruiting coordinator, I’m doing the mail-outs. I’m thinking, ‘I want to get these kids.’ It was like gameday to me.”

Later in Langford’s first season as a graduate assistant, Fortner asked her to help a player on the team improve her finishing ability around the rim, so Langford took her under her wing. Langford spent time working with the player one-on-one in practice for the next couple of weeks, showing her moves in the paint that would help her convert on her layups.

After that player showed notable improvement down the line, Langford realized that she had made the right career move.

“A couple of games later, she gets to the rim, makes an and-one, and she kind of looks over to the bench at me,” Langford said. “At that moment, I was like, ‘This is what I’m supposed to do.’ I had just helped someone achieve their goal, and that was joy for me.”

After two years at Auburn, Langford landed several Division I assistant jobs. In the 2011-12 academic year, she served as an assistant coach at Bucknell University and worked with their guards. For the following three years, Langford served as an assistant on Denver University’s staff, working as both the recruiting coordinator and the guards coach.

Afterwards, she spent 2015-16 with the U.S. Naval Academy, where she was once again a recruiting coordinator while also assisting with the team’s post players. In 2016-17, she became one of the top assistants on Old Dominion University’s coaching staff. After helping lead Old Dominion to an in-season turnaround, Langford caught the attention of Sean O’Regan — the head coach of James Madison University’s (JMU) women’s basketball team.

Langford took a big pay cut and downgraded from top assistant to third assistant just to be a part of the Dukes’ program. She spent four seasons with JMU, where she took vast developmental steps as a coach.

“For me, it wasn’t about the money, it was about the opportunity,” Langford said. “I felt like in my four years there, I really came into myself as a coach. I just thrived there.”

The work that she put in for O’Regan in the film room, with the players and as a recruiter earned her a promotion to associate head coach in the 2020-21 season.

Langford’s promotion came as both a reward and a validation of her ability.

“It just showed me that he recognized that [O’Regan] trusted me,” Langford said. “I think a part of it was confirmation that I could do this; that maybe I could be a head coach.”

The ensuing offseason brought Langford to the next stop in her meteoric rise. After former head coach Caroline McCombs led Stony Brook to the 2021 NCAA tournament, George Washington University offered her a higher-paying position, leaving a vacancy.

By that point in time, Langford had already completed her first interview for a head coaching gig at another institution. While in the airport on the way back to JMU, Langford’s phone rang. Heilbron and DeJong were on the other line.

Though Langford was not actively seeking a way out of JMU, Stony Brook was her match made in heaven.

“I loved Harrisonburg [Va.], but I wish it was closer to a city. ” Langford said. “So when Stony Brook came into the picture, it was like, ‘Well, that just fits.’”

The rest became history. Langford signed up to be the next head coach of Stony Brook women’s basketball and promptly led them to a 23-6 record and the 2022 WNIT. The offseason that followed brought the loss of four impact players, including three starters. To combat the issue, she rebuilt the team and led the Seawolves to their first-ever postseason win in the Coastal Athletic Association.

By being transparent with her players, Langford has done a good job of getting them to buy in and enjoy their time here.

“I really try to connect with them on some level, whatever that may be,” Langford said. “I really just try to connect with them as women and humans. Sometimes I’m really silly, sometimes I’m really serious. I’m just trying to give them all of me so that they can see that I’m just a person, too.”

Now, after proving herself worthy of a long-term commitment from Stony Brook, Langford can get nice and comfortable in the place that embraces her for who she is and her ability.

“This community — Stony Brook Nation — is love,” Langford said. “That’s important to me, and I feel that. I love it here.”

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About the Contributor
Mike Anderson, Sports Editor
Mike Anderson is the Sports Editor at The Statesman. He is a senior majoring in journalism with aspirations of becoming a sports journalist. His love of sports comes from his time spent as a baseball player. As a reporter for The Statesman, he has covered baseball, softball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, men's and women's lacrosse, women's volleyball and hockey. He has also interned at Axcess Sports as a high school and college baseball and softball reporter. He is a local product from Port Jefferson, N.Y. and is a diehard Mets, Jets, Nets and Islanders fan.
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