Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

June 4, 2013

New Texas Tech women's basketball coach has strong ties to area

Jay Neal
Jacksonville Daily Progress

TROUP — Candace Whitaker was named as the sixth head women's basketball coach in Texas Tech University history earlier this month and while several informative and complimentary stories have been written in the past couple of weeks about Whitaker, none have been done from the perspective of someone who knows Whitaker just about as well as she knows herself.

Whitaker's older sister, Mandy Brister, lives right outside of Troup, along with her husband Ben and the couple's three children Benny, Blair and Brady.

Brister works as a registered pharmacy at a Brookshire's Food & Pharmacy location in Tyler while Ben Brister is employed in the same capacity at the Jacksonville Walmart.

The 33-year-old Whitaker, along with the Bristers, are all proud Texas Tech graduates.

Whitaker served as the associate women's basketball coach at Oklahoma State University last season and prior to that she was the head coach at University of Missouri-Kansas City for six seasons.

“We were surprised when we found out that Candy (Whitaker) would be interviewing for the Texas Tech job because as a former Tech player she had always dreamed of one day being able to return to coach the Lady Raiders,” Mandy Brister said. “It has been Candy's dream job for a long time.

“Candy played under (legendary former Texas Tech head coach) Marsha Sharp at Tech for two seasons and she has always (admired her) and wanted to be like her (Sharp).”

During her stint in Kansas City Whitaker, then 26, became one of the youngest NCAA Division I head coaches in the nation. Whitaker guided the Kangaroos to their first-ever post season appearance while producing three first-team all-league selections.

Her no-nonsense approach also carried over to the classroom where 36 UMKC student-athletes under her tutelage earned academic all-conference accolades.

Mandy Brister said that there are two things that, perhaps, Whitaker doesn't get enough credit for.

The first is her intense knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the game of basketball.

“Candy knows the X's and O's of basketball I think more than the average coach,” Mandy Brister said. “Also some people may not realize just how competitive she really is.”

To illustrate her point regarding Whitaker competitive spirt, Mandy Brister shared this story.

“We both played on the same (basketball) team at Canyon (Texas) High School for one year,” Mandy Brister said. “I was a senior-shooting guard and Candy was a bossy little freshman point guard. Candy was giving me a little bit more direction (on the court) than I wanted to hear and we ended up getting in a fight...it wasn't the proudest moment for our parents.”

Sisterly love, basketball style.

Mandy Brister said that she also feels like the Lady Raider players will appreciate playing for Whitaker.

“She (Whitaker) hasn't been out of school that long and I think that she will really be able to relate to the kids and will be able to communicate with them well.”

The past couple of weeks have been action packed for Whitaker who inherits a team that is scheduled to lose the services of four senior starters.

“I talked to Candy a couple of days ago,” Mandy Brister said. “She (Candy) has so much going on. She said that she was finishing up hiring her coaching staff and that there were camps to plan and she was working on looking for a new home. She is also expecting a baby and I asked her, 'have you found a doctor in Lubbock yet' and she said that that was something else that she had to do, so her life is really in a whirlwind right now.”

Whitaker holds degrees from Texas Tech and from Valparaiso (Ind.) University.

She is married to Matt Whitaker. The couple are parents to a son, Westin.