Being named West High School's girls basketball coach represents a fresh start for Daedra Charles-Furlow.
The new role also feels like fresh air, given the tumultuous past month for the former Tennessee Lady Vols player and assistant coach.
"It's been a bright spot,'' said Charles-Furlow, whose hiring was announced on Friday. "This is refreshing."
Charles-Furlow, who had spent the past two seasons as the Lady Vols' director of character development, wasn't retained after Pat Summitt stepped down as head coach last month and a staff reorganization ensued. Former associate head coach Holly Warlick became the new head coach. Charles' duties were absorbed largely by Summitt's new role as head coach emeritus.
On April 20 — the day after a press conference detailed the coaching transition — Charles was summoned to the office of athletic director Dave Hart and told that she didn't have a place in the new order.
Charles-Furlow understood that the athletic budget was being cut and that changes were in store. But she didn't understand why Warlick didn't break this news to her. Furthermore, she was irritated by Warlick saying earlier this month that she thought Charles-Furlow "wanted to pursue other opportunities."
"I wish she would've told me,'' Charles-Furlow said. "(Hart) doesn't know me. He doesn't know my history."
Charles-Furlow, one of five former players to have her number retired, returned to UT in 2008 as an assistant coach.
The character development position was created for her after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which compromised her effectiveness as an assistant and the program's recruiting coordinator.
Charles-Furlow said Summitt was instrumental in creating the new position and overseeing that staff overhaul. Since Warlick was head coach, Charles-Furlow thought that Warlick should've taken charge of this change.
"The bottom line is she did apologize to me," Charles-Furlow said. "For that, I'm OK. At least she understands how I felt about it. I have no beef with Holly Warlick."
Charles-Furlow said that she and Warlick eventually met at Long's Drug Store. Charles-Furlow said that they greeted each with a hug and hugged again before departing.
Last month's developments, "hurt my feelings,'' Charles-Furlow said. "But I'm a big girl. I got over it."
The coaching opportunity at West gave her something else to think about. She recalled conversations with former Tennessee men's basketball associate head coach Tony Jones, who became the boys' coach at Alcoa High after losing his job at UT.
Charles asked specifically about the transition and while Jones told her that it was different, he also said: "I love it. It's coaching. It's teaching. It's about life."
Charles' connection to West was Donna Fielden, a retiring assistant principal at the school who has officiated Lady Vols' intrasquad scrimmages. Along with coaching potential, West High athletic director Steve Killian sensed Charles-Furlow's affinity for mentoring.
"She seems to have a genuine heart for young people," Killian said. "Her willingness to have a heart and understanding for young people — wanting them to do well — is what jumps out at me initially.
"Sometimes good athletes don't always make good coaches. They don't always connect with high school athletes who don't have that ability. I think she can teach the game. I feel very comfortable there. She has a kindness and caring nature that seems very genuine. She seems to be a perfect fit for our school and young people."
Charles-Furlow will replace Eddie Gambrell, who's coached the past two seasons. Gambrell left when his teaching position was lost due to a staff reduction, Killian said.
While saying that she still needs a "job job," Charles-Furlow is excited about the opportunity at West. She doesn't have to uproot her family, and she will gain head coaching experience.
"I believe God has a path for me," she said, "and I've got to take this path right now."