A lot of people ask me, ‘How could you work with your wife?’ But it’s never really been like that for us. Jody and I have coached together for 19 years – the last eight years with her as the head coach of our programs. I am good with playing the support role and being the one that just helps her and helps her career. She helps me tremendously as well, and it’s never been a problem. There is a mutual respect from both of us and that is why it works.
The really cool part of it is we get to do things together and our kids are able to have us on similar schedules. Our two daughters – Jada, 14 and Kaeli, 11 – being a part of our careers is a real blessing. They are always around us, and seeing us be able to work through things together is something you can’t replace. We just love the fact that our kids are able to be on a college campus all the time. For our kids, it is like going to college. They don’t know anything else. They just know everybody goes to college, so that is great for us to be able to have them around and have that understanding of what life is like after high school.
We really are getting the best of both worlds. We are able to work together, be together and have our daughters around us every day. We all get to travel the country together and share in so many life experiences. It’s really just amazing what we have been able to do and the places we’ve been able to go through basketball. Our daughters have been places they would have never been able to go if we weren’t coaching in college. Any time I think about changing anything, I always come back to how incredible and amazing this opportunity is for our family.
It’s important for me to have my daughters grow up believing they can do anything or be anything. I have two sisters and two daughters. I have always been surrounded by women. My mom has been an amazing role model for me. My dad passed away in 2007 and my mom has been just the rock of the family. She retired from the school district after more than 30 years. Being able to see how strong she is and how supportive she is of our family is incredible for me and incredible for our daughters.
We take our daughters to as many sporting events as we can for them to be able to see strong women and see what they are able to do with their careers even after they are done playing. I always remember our youngest asking me, ‘Daddy. Why are there always so many fans at the men’s games and they don’t come to our games?’ We have come a long way, but obviously we still have a long way to go. It’s important for men to support women’s sports and for the young ladies to feel that support. It’s a really big deal. I think times are changing where it is more accepted that women can be influential in all of sports regardless of gender.https://ucdavisaggies.com/coaches.aspx?rc=568
Jody and I met when she was still playing at USC. I was a P.E. teacher at a school in Claremont, California and one of my students, and a kid I coached outside of school, was a guy named Rome Douglas. He played football at USC and he introduced Jody and I. He thought we’d be a great fit. We talked on the phone for like a month before we even met in person. I went to watch her play at USC and she would come watch me coach and our relationship just grew from there. It kind of started with basketball and here we are still with basketball all these years later.
Jody got a job coaching at Pepperdine while we were engaged, and I took a job at Calabasas High so I could be closer to her and not commute as far. There ended up being another opening on Mark Trakh’s staff at Pepperdine a month later, and I took that job. That is the first time Jody and I started working together. I was fortunate that Mark gave me a chance and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been coaching women’s basketball ever since and I’ve loved every minute of it.
Jody and I absolutely both wanted to be head coaches, but it was just whoever would get the opportunity. She got that chance at Long Beach State and now at Washington. I am fine with being by her side. I don’t have to say I am the head coach or anything. We work together and do things together and it has worked out. It has never been an issue. I feel like we do it together, like we are a team.
We talk to other husbands and wives that work together in a similar situation, like JR Payne and Toriano Towns at Colorado, Jennifer Gross and Joe Teramoto at UC Davis and Kellie and Jon Harper at Missouri State. It’s kind of neat to be able to catch up with people and talk to them about their experiences. We have our own little fraternity if you will.
It’s important to have good relationships with people in coaching. That goes a long way. I think there are talented people out there that are trying to get places – we all are – but I think you just need to focus on doing the best you can every day and not looking ahead or trying to take shortcuts. If you do that, you are going to end up where you are supposed to go. I just kind of trusted the process. I always wanted to be a college coach and I didn’t quite know how that would exactly happen. But just the relationships I made with people ended up helping me out a little bit in the long run. Just being good to people and trusting the process enables you to get where you want. I am exactly where I want to be, with my wife and daughters right alongside me every day. There isn’t anything more I could really ask for.
Derek Wynn is Cal State Fullerton Alum and is currently the Associate Head Womens Basketball Coach at The University of Washington. His wife, Jody Wynn, serves as the Head Coach. Prior UW, Coach Wynn has had stints at Long Beach State, USC and Pepperdine. Wynn also spent 6 years as Assistant Boys Basketball at Upland HS (CA).
As told to Rhiannon Potkey