Gayle Coats Fulks, an assistant coach at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, helped guide the Demon Deacons to a 17-16 season. Since joining the coaching staff in 2012, Coats Fulks primary coaching duties have been in the backcourt, helping with player progression. Coats Fulks was the only coach from the Atlantic Coast Conference selected for the honor.
Prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, Fulks participated in the WBCA’s 2015 Center for Coaching Excellence that was held in Atlanta.
Tell us a little about your background?
I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and in Richmond, Virginia and attended college at Fairleigh Dickinson University. From there, I was fortunate to get my start with the New York Liberty as an intern working with their video coordinator. It was an amazing opportunity to see the highest level of basketball and my supervisor, Catherine Proto, was tremendous. She really taught me a lot that summer and I have carried those experiences with me throughout my career. From there, I was able to become an assistant coach at Longwood University. It was a great opportunity for me to be on the court coaching and recruiting in my first year out of college. I learned a lot over those four years and then moved on to short stints at University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Mount St. Mary’s before landing in my current position as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Wake Forest University.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time, I like to spend time with my family and close friends. I have grown up in an athletic family, so we always like to do go to sporting events. In addition to attending sporting events, my husband and I like to go on adventures in the outdoors.
When did you know you wanted to be a coach?
People think that I am kidding when I say this, but I knew when I was about 6 years old. Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, I always watched every Charlotte Hornets game that I could with my dad. I was a huge fan of Muggsy Bogues! He was my favorite because he really beat the odds, being only 5’3” and playing in the NBA. From then on, I was hooked – I would watch basketball anytime I could on TV. It didn’t take long before I started watching the games from a coaching point of view and trying to figure out different offenses and defenses. As I started playing, I was always picking my coaches brains about things and trying to soak up as much knowledge as I could. During AAU tournaments, I started sitting on the bench for the younger teams and mentoring the girls and seeing how I could help them reach their potential. After I was finished playing AAU, I decided to coach my first AAU team the summer before I went off to college. I had a blast with it and decided to coach a team every summer while in college as well.
Do you have any pre-game rituals?
On game-day, our team has a few pre-game rituals. We have a very organized shoot-around, and we always end it with a “halfie” or a made half-court shot. It gets pretty competitive with our girls! Before the game, I’m always out on the court early and help rebound for our players and help them get into a good groove.
What is/are the most challenging part(s) of your role?
I think the most challenging part of my role is adjusting and dealing with the diverse needs of a variety of athletes. Wake Forest is an elite academic program, in addition to, competing at the highest level in the ACC. Our players are challenged every single day both on and off the court, and I do my very best to help them reach their full potential every single day. This is a challenge because they all come from very different backgrounds. Helping them mature and navigate their way into the real world is different for each of them.
Briefly state your coaching philosophy; What values are important to you that you try to instill in your student-athletes?
I truly believe that hard work works. My track to Wake Forest thus far has been a little bit of an ‘underdog’ type story. I didn’t play at the ACC level, but I was able to work extremely hard to bring value to every school I have been at. Through this hard work, I was able to separate myself and earn this position.
I also believe that the only way to operate is with a high level of integrity. We preach to our players all the time that we must do what is RIGHT, regardless of the situation or circumstance. I try to live this out every single day and serve as a good model for them.
What is your favorite memory in your current coaching role thus far?
This past season has been my favorite memory thus far. A lot of people thought that we were going to have a down year after graduating arguably the best player in our programs history (current WNBA player Dearica Hamby), and then we also had several injuries before and throughout the season. We had very limited numbers all season long, but we stuck together and were able to make some noise in the ACC by beating UNC, Duke, and NC State for the first time since 1988. We also were able to qualify for post-season play in the WNIT. This team was so resilient and fun to coach!
What does it mean to you to be recognized as a WBCA “Thirty Under 30” honoree?
Our industry is filled with some very talented and dedicated people, and to be to be recognized by the WBCA as a “Thirty Under 30” honoree is extremely humbling. It has reinforced to me that my hard work, dedication, and passion for this profession has not gone unnoticed. Thank you so much for this honor!
The WBCA recognizes annually the WBCA's Thirty Under 30 recipients. This recognition was created to honor thirty of the up-and-coming women's basketball coaches age 30 and under in the sport at all levels of the game. For more information on the award, click here.