Some of the best things in the world come in pairs, and the same principle applies to North Lamar ISD. Taqoya Monds is entering her third season at the helm of the Pantherettes basketball program and, starting this year, her husband David Monds will take over on the boys’ side.
Now that they share their life in the workplace as well, both Monds coaches are eager to lead and guide North Lamar basketball for years to come.
After a decorated basketball career sent him all around the world through several high levels of competition, David was ecstatic to take this job and is already eager to immerse himself in the basketball culture his wife has been a strong part of.
“I was super excited — elated,” David said. “Most of the excitement came from my wife, though. She really pushed me to try to interview for the job because I wasn’t really wanting to let go of my AAU team. But, once she got behind me, I felt like I had a superman cape on. I’ve seen the environment she has been a part of as far as the culture and her team, it’s very family-oriented. After the games, they cry after losses together and smile after winning together. That’s a culture I want to be a part of, and she has paved the way. All I have to do is come in and make it to the playoffs for three years in a row. I’m pretty excited. I get to drive to work with my wife every day — save some gas money too.”
The feelings of excitement are mutual with Taqoya, who’s hard work in pushing her husband to join her on the North Lamar courts paid off and can see even greater accomplishments in the coming years.
“It’s really neat,” Taqoya said. “I am honored and we are both honored to just be given this opportunity by Coach (Kendal) Kirk and Mrs. (Kelli) Stewart. We appreciate them just having faith in us to take this program in a positive direction. I also look forward to the opportunities of us just working together. We’ve already had a couple of open gyms together this summer. It also helps the girls to just scrimmage against the guys because we play a lot of athletic teams in our district. The only way I can really simulate that is putting them up against the guys, and living at home with their coach makes setting that up a lot more easily. I think it will also help build a closer relationship between the boys and girls programs because we are both going to be invested in each others’ success. We will both genuinely care about and pull for each other.”
The Monds coaches feel confident in the depth and positivity of their personal relationship, and they believe it will be a seamless transition as colleagues — something David called “a dream come true.” However, promoting a positive culture in several different ways is not only beneficial for the coaching couple’s personal dynamic, but it is also important for them to be role models to the student-athletes.
“I think for kids, personally, seeing a married couple work cohesively together, might show them a positive example,” David said. “Most people may think, ‘You’re already at home a lot with your wife, and now y’all are working together? Are you serious right now?’ No, but she is my best friend more than anything first and foremost, so that makes it a lot easier. We will really push each other too.”
Basketball has been a large part of both Monds coaches’ lives from the beginning. For David, his playing career included four years and an NCAA Final Four run with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, nine stops overseas playing European hoops, and even a two-month stint with the late Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers. Despite everything he accomplished on the court, David learned the most during his career building relationships in unfamiliar environments off the hardwood.
“My wife and kids and I went on a very exciting journey while I was playing basketball,” David said. “The most important thing I learned outside of basketball during that time was about building relationships with other people. We lived amongst Muslims, atheists, greek orthodox followers, and many other people coming from different cultures and religions, but we saw it as dealing with everyday people. We just loved the simplicity of everyday life, which is going to work, visiting family, having coffee, and drinking wine. That’s what we loved about being overseas. Once you learn about building a relationship with people and bring it to coaching kids, these kids will run through a wall for you because they know you truly believe in them. They know that you genuinely care about their craft and making them better as a person.”
As for Taqoya, her promising hoops career was cut short by a devastating knee injury as a junior at Hugo High School. Despite big dreams she had as a potential star player, her torn ACL did not keep Taqoya away from pursuing another promising future path for her life.
“My experiences with playing basketball did not go as far as I had liked for them to go,” Taqoya said. “If someone asked me about it when I was in high school, I always had WNBA dreams. I knew that was something I was going to do. In my junior year, I sustained a pretty substantial knee injury that forced me to sit out the entire year. The coach recruiting me at Oklahoma State decided to take a job somewhere else, so I decided to take another path amongst all these changes and challenges. I got an academic scholarship and was able to graduate from Oklahoma State, where I met my husband.”
After meeting her husband, Taqoya and David embarked on David’s global hoops journey together. Being a winning basketball player gave David a great deal of unique opportunities during his playing days, but the road was bumpy at times. A team in France let David go leaving a game to see his daughter’s birth, but nothing ever knocked him down. Instead, it taught David about sacrifice, accountability, and work ethic, which he looks forward to implementing with his new basketball program. David knows the intelligence level of the youth in today’s society, so he is aware of the importance in applying the same principles to himself and being transparent as possible.
“It’s about a never-ending process of going to work every single day,” David said. “In order to be a winning basketball player and have a winning career, you have to be able to do the same things over and over again. We would go back to the fundamentals every day. I am a professional at this point working on form shooting and paying attention to detail. If I needed to work on my left-handed layups, then I’m gonna do 50 left-handed layups. You need to work on your craft every day and compete against yourself. I think that is the most important thing because, when you’re training and you’re tired, you can easily get up and walk out of that gym if you want to. I have something inside of me that says, ‘You better stop being a punk, you better make it in 30 seconds. Get your butt back on the line.’ You have to compete against yourself every day when you train. Most kids just want to show up on Tuesdays and Fridays and they will complain about not having a good game. I tell them to look back and think about what they did in the summer, two months ago, or even three weeks ago. As a matter of fact, I may ask some of them, ‘What were you doing last night on Snapchat at three in the morning?’ It’s about integrity and competing against yourself…Effective communication and relationships need to be the backbone of your team.”
Like her husband, Taqoya’s on-court philosophy is built around principles of character and discipline. Once her college days and traveling days were over, she later transitioned into the next phase of her life as a coach. With that, she has gathered what she’s learned to develop a strong, genuine, and thoughtful coaching style. Inspired by her high school coach and teammates in Hugo, Taqoya knew her calling and was not afraid to step into a new area to fulfill it.
“Honestly, most of my coaching philosophy has nothing to do with basketball,” Taqoya said. “I try to make it a priority to get to know my girls in a unique way individually to have a positive relationship with them. I just try to provide opportunities with my players to build relationships with each other. The better teams you see have amazing team chemistry, and I just want to create an atmosphere that has that type of chemistry because I think we could do something special with that.”
The coronavirus could not stop Taqoya and her girls from setting up virtual practices on Zoom or engaging in TikTok challenges all in an effort to blend fun and hard work for the upcoming season. Although the disease has presented challenges, the excitement for Taqoya, the Pantherette players, and the community has not deflated.
“Our excitement is through the roof,” Taqoya said. “I’m beyond excited and I know our girls are really excited about playing — that’s all they’ve been talking about all summer. Even the parents are excited. It’s an awesome atmosphere to be a part of and it’s like the community senses something special happening. This group is really special…Fundamentals have always been a huge point of emphasis…and it is really starting to pay off. I fully expect us to be in the regional tournament in Commerce this year. I really think that is attainable if we can achieve the small goals and take it one step at a time.”
David and Taqoya will lead their basketball teams on the court later this fall in their first year together to guide the NLISD hoops programs.