Liberty High’s new girls basketball coach has a name that can be challenging to spell and pronounce for some people.
A physical education teacher at Liberty, Quynh Nguyen’s first name is pronounced “Kwan,” her last name is pronounced “Win,” and people at Liberty should like the sound of that.
A former college player at the University of Tampa, the upbeat Nguyen takes over a strong Eagles program that Ryan Washington led to a 65-27 record over the previous four seasons before stepping down.
Nguyen accepted the job in mid-spring after holding the lead assistant coach job last winter.
“We have a great group of girls who are willing to put the work in,” she said, “and it doesn’t hurt that I love being around them – on and off the court.”
Of Vietnamese descent, Nguyen is a 2006 graduate of Osbourn High, where she played for head coach Lauren Milburn, who later coached Liberty (75-23 record, 2008-2012) and now serves as Liberty’s assistant principal. Nguyen graduated from Tampa in 2010 and spent four years as an assistant coach at Osbourn before moving to Liberty.
“Growing up, I didn’t think I’d ever coach,” said Nguyen, who played as a point guard, shooting guard and small forward. “It was a way to feed my competitiveness after college once my playing career was over. Now I love it.”
Milburn calls her former player a natural coach.
“She has strong relationships with the girls, and she has built a rapport and trust with them,” Milburn said. “Additionally, Quynh understands that fundamentals are essential to building a team and program. She is dedicated and a hard worker.”
She becomes the fifth girls basketball coach in school history. All the past coaches finished with winning records, and the Eagles won a 2011 state title under Milburn.
Nguyen is already game-planning for her first season.
“You can expect to see a completely different offensive and defensive scheme,” she said. “Offensively, we will slow the tempo and definitely utilize our inside presence. But we also have some tools at the guard spots as well. On the other end, you will see a more fundamentally sound defense.”
Liberty’s program lost the county’s all-time leading scorer in guard Makaela Kestner, whose all-district back-court mate Carly Shepard also graduated. However, 6-foot-3 senior Kinsley Lewis will return after committing to play at Radford University.
“Our girls have worked hard together in the gym on their individual skills,” said Nguyen, who feels excited about her coaching staff, including weight room coach Ben Defibaugh.
Liberty Activities Director Dean Spahr, meanwhile, is a big fan of Nguyen.
“She ran a couple of camps this summer; ran a lot of open gyms,” Spahr said. “She helps out with a lot of other things at the school. She runs our Eagle Club, which is our student section for football games.”