Karen Aston
Karen Aston
Karen Aston, former head coach at Texas, North Texas and Charlotte, was named the 10th head coach in program history on March 29, 2021.
Aston has been consistently recognized as one of the top coaches in the nation. She was one of four finalists for the Naismith Women’s College Coach of the Year award in 2017 and was one of 10 semifinalists for the honor in 2018. Aston also earned Big 12 Coach of the Year accolades in 2017.
Aston has a career record of 285-146 [.661] which includes head coaching positions at Charlotte, North Texas and Texas. In her 13 seasons as a head coach, Aston’s teams have averaged 22 wins per year and have made a combined 10 postseason appearances.
At the University of Texas, Aston led the Longhorns to a 184-83 [.689] record in eight seasons. In her final seven seasons combined at Texas, Aston’s teams averaged 24.6 wins per year, making six NCAA Tournament appearances. From 2015-18, her squads made four consecutive NCAA Sweet 16 showings, marking the first time that had been accomplished at Texas since 1990. Aston also directed the 2015-16 Longhorns to the program’s first NCAA Elite Eight appearance since 2003.
Aston, who also spent eight years as an assistant and associate head coach at Texas for Naismith Hall of Fame head coach Jody Conradt, stands as Texas’ second-winningest coach all-time behind Conradt’s 783 victories.
Three of Aston’s Texas players [Nneka Enemkpali, Imani McGee-Stafford and Ariel Atkins] were drafted by WNBA teams with McGee-Stafford [10th] and Atkins [7th] being selected as first-round picks. As a starter, Atkins helped lead the Washington Mystics to the 2019 WNBA Championship and has earned WNBA All-Defensive Team honors in each of her two seasons.
Defense has been a staple of Aston’s teams her entire coaching career. Each of her eight teams at Texas ranked in the top-25 nationally in rebounding margin, including three years in the top-five. Her 2017-18 and 2018-19 teams ranked third in the NCAA in rebounding margin. Four of the top-eight single-season team rebounding averages in Texas history came during Aston’s tenure, as did five of the top-nine best seasons in field-goal percentage defense.
Aston’s prowess as one of the nation’s best recruiters is also well known. Five of the classes she recruited to Texas were ranked among the top-11 in the nation according to ESPN.com, including three top-five classes. Recruits Charli Collier and Joyner Holmes were both No. 2 prospects according to ESPN and were listed as the nation’s top recruits by some services. Aston brought 14 McDonalds All-Americans to Texas during her eight seasons. 
In a season shortened due to COVID-19, the 2019-20 Longhorns posted a 19-11 overall record and finished third in the Big 12 Conference. A season that began with off-season injuries to a number of key contributors featured some impressive accomplishments. Texas defeated three Associated Press Top-25 teams, including knocking off No. 1 Stanford, which marked the program’s first win against an AP No. 1 squad since 2004. The Longhorns also won at No. 17 and previously undefeated Tennessee, and earned a road victory against No. 25 TCU. Texas led the nation in double-doubles during the 2019-20 campaign with 31. 
Aston mentored Collier, a sophomore center, to First-Team All-Big 12 Conference honors, as she was one of only six players in the league to average a double-double. Collier became the first player in program history to average more than seven defensive rebounds per game in a single season. Freshman guard Celeste Taylor was a Big 12 All-Freshman Team selection and earned three Big 12 Freshman of the Week accolades.
In 2018-19, Aston led Texas to a 23-10 overall record and a third-place showing in the Big 12 Conference with a 12-6 overall mark. The Longhorns advanced to the semifinals of the Big 12 Conference Tournament for the sixth consecutive year. It marked the sixth year in a row that the Longhorns had won 20 or more games.
Under Aston’s tutelage, junior point guard Sug Sutton earned First-Team All-Big 12 Conference honors in 2018-19 and was named to the Big 12 All-Tournament Team. She led the Longhorns in scoring [12.7 points per game], assists per game [5.4] and steals per game [1.3]. Sutton scored in double figures 23 times, including four 20-point performances, and her 178 assists on the year marked the seventh-most in a single-season in school history. She was the conference’s best all-around point guard as a junior.
In 2017-18, Aston led the Longhorns to a 28-7 overall record and a second-place finish in the Big 12 Conference with a 15-3 overall mark. Texas advanced to the championship game of the Big 12 Conference Tournament for the third time in four years. It marked the fourth year in a row that the Longhorns had won 24 or more games.
For the third time in four seasons, Aston had one of her players selected in the WNBA Draft in 2018. Atkins was chosen with the No. 7 pick by the Washington Mystics, making her the third-highest draft pick in Texas history.
Under Aston’s direction, Atkins and fellow senior Brooke McCarty concluded their decorated Texas careers in 2017-18. It marked the end of an impressive four-year span that saw the Longhorns post a 108-32 [.771] overall record, four NCAA Tournament appearances, four NCAA Sweet 16 appearances, one NCAA Elite Eight appearance and three Big 12 Conference second-place finishes. Aston was a semifinalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year award.
Aston was named the Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year in 2016-17, as the Longhorns swept the league’s annual honors. McCarty was named the Big 12 Player of the Year, Brianna Taylor was selected as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Holmes earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year accolades. Aston was one of four finalists nationally for the Naismith Coach of the Year honor.
The Longhorns recorded a 25-9 overall record during the 2016-17 campaign. Texas strung together a 19-game winning streak during the course of the season, which ranks tied for the 10th-longest spree in program history. With a rigorous slate that featured 14 top-25 opponents, the Longhorns recorded seven victories against ranked foes. Texas won 14 consecutive games to start Big 12 Conference play, which marked the best start to the Big 12 schedule in school history. The Longhorns charted a 15-3 record in Big 12 play to finish second in the conference for the second consecutive year.
In 2015-16, Aston led Texas to an historic season. The Longhorns posted a 31-5 overall record, which marked the school’s most victories since the 1987-88 season, and tied the school record for most Big 12 Conference wins [15] in a single season. Texas hosted the NCAA First and Second Rounds for the first time since 2010 and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time since 2003. The Longhorns opened the year with a 16-0 record, marking the third-best start in program history.
McGee-Stafford, a senior center, was named an honorable mention All-America selection from both the Associated Press and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association in 2015-16, and became the first player in program history to reach the combined milestone of 1,000 career points, 1,000 career rebounds and 200 career blocks. McGee-Stafford was the fourth player in school history to be drafted in the first round of the WNBA Draft, going to the Chicago Sky with the 10th overall pick.
The 2014-15 Longhorns began the season on a 13-game winning streak and capped the year with a run to the NCAA Sweet 16. Texas finished with a 24-11 overall record and advanced to the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament for the first time since 2004. The Longhorns won nine of their last 12 games and posted what were then their most wins in more than a decade. Enemkpali was selected by the Seattle Storm in the third round of the 2015 WNBA Draft.
In 2013-14, Texas began a steady incline that included five wins against ranked opponents, a third-place finish in the Big 12 standings, a 10-win improvement from the previous season, and winning a game in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. UT’s tie for third place in the Big 12 was its highest league finish since 2005.
Aston returned to the Forty Acres in 2012 after five years of experience reviving the women's basketball programs at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the University of North Texas.
Aston tripled the Mean Green's victory total in one season, as UNT went 15-16 during the 2011-12 season under her direction after winning just five games the previous year. At Charlotte, Aston led the program to record-breaking heights, with 86 victories in four seasons, including a school-record 27 wins in 2010-11.
Aston led the 49ers to four consecutive postseason appearances and the 2009 Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship en route to the school's second ever NCAA Tournament appearance. In her final season at Charlotte, Aston's squad advanced to the WNIT Final Four.
While on Conradt's Texas staff from 1998-2006, Aston helped the Longhorns post a 173-83 [.676] record during that span, with seven NCAA Tournament appearances, two trips to the Sweet 16 and a march to the 2003 Final Four. The Longhorns also captured the 2003 Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles, and UT shared the 2004 Big 12 regular-season title. Aston was promoted from assistant coach to associate head coach in July of 2000 after serving as an assistant coach for two seasons.
During her time as an assistant on the Forty Acres, Aston spearheaded the signing of 25 nationally-recognized recruits, including seven McDonald's High School All-Americans and seven WBCA/Nike All-Americans. Two of those high school All-Americans - Tiffany Jackson and Erika Arriaran - were named National High School Players of the Year. All eight of the recruiting classes Aston attracted were nationally ranked, including the No. 1 class in the nation in 2005-06.
Aston first came to Austin in 1998 from the University of North Texas, where she served as an assistant coach for two seasons [1996-98]. Prior to joining the North Texas staff, Aston was an assistant coach at Baylor for two seasons [1994-96].
Following Aston's initial stint on the Forty Acres, she was named associate head coach at Baylor during the 2006-07 season. With Aston on board, the Lady Bears won 26 games and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Before entering the collegiate coaching ranks, Aston was recognized as one of the top high school coaches in the nation. She coached five years at Vilonia High School [1988-93] in Vilonia, Ark., and one year at Fort Smith Northside [1993-94] in Fort Smith, Ark. She guided Fort Smith Northside to a 24-10 record and a fifth-place finish in Class 4A. For her efforts, she was named the Arkansas Northwest Region Coach of the Year.
While at Vilonia, Aston was not only the head basketball coach but also the head cross country and track coach. In 1992-93, she was named the Arkansas Basketball Coach of the Year after leading Vilonia to a 36-1 record and a Class 2A State Championship. Aston's cross country teams also claimed back-to-back state titles in 1991 and 1992.
A native of Benton, Ark., Aston was a two-time first-team all-state selection at Bryant High School. She capped her high school career by leading Bryant to the 1982 Arkansas Class 4A State Championship. Aston earned a bachelor of arts degree in physical education from Little Rock in 1987. She played two seasons of basketball at UALR after transferring from Ouachita Baptist.
In 2019, Aston was inducted into the Trojan Athletics Hall of Fame at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Bryant [Ark.] High School Athletic Hall of Honor.