The Trojans’ coach spotted something special when the Husky coach was a young player. He also hired her for her first coaching job.
Mark Trakh spotted a little girl on a basketball court and gave her instructions on how to properly shoot a basketball.
Unbeknownst to him, he set in motion a special relationship with Jody Wynn that spans three decades and intersects again at 2 p.m. Sunday at Alaska Airlines Arena when they coach against each other for the first time.
Wynn leads the Washington women’s basketball team (7-13, 1-8 Pac-12) against her mentor Trakh, who coaches USC (14-6, 4-5), in a game packed with emotions for each of them.
“It’s going to be awkward having my mentor and someone whose been a second father now on the other sideline,” Wynn said. “I look at it like an opportunity to coach against my own legend.
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“There’s a lot of legends in this game and he’s certainly one of them, but he’s for sure my No. 1. … He’s the reason I’m doing this. If not for him, I don’t know what I’d be doing.”
Before Trakh entered her life, Wynn had plans to become an Olympic swimmer and perhaps pursue a career in physical therapy.
But that changed one day in the fifth grade when Trakh approached her after a basketball game. At the time he was the varsity girls basketball coach at Brea Olinda High in Orange County, Calif., and officiated elementary games at the school.
“I was watching one of the kids,” Trakh said. “She was about 5-8 or 5-9. Taller than the other kids. She was really playing well. And it was Jody.
“After the game I called her over and said, do me a favor, hold the ball like this and I want you to shoot it like this. And it looked really nice. I said did you ever think about playing basketball in high school, and she got a big smile on her face.”
Before her ninth-grade season, Wynn, who was Jody Anton at the time, committed fully to basketball and quickly became a star.
“She started every game in four years,” Trakh said. “We won three straight championships. She was the tallest person on the team, but I put her at the two-guard.
“Just a great three-point shooter. Could handle the ball. Great defensive player. Rebounder. Just a tough kid. One of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached. Hated to lose. Great student.”
Wynn played four years at USC while Trakh took his first college job at Pepperdine. The two reunited in 1996 when Wynn graduated from USC and Trakh hired the 22-year-old to be his lead assistant.
During eight seasons together, Pepperdine won four West Coast Conference titles, two WCC tournament titles, captured at least 20 wins six times and made the postseason in each of his last six seasons (three NCAAs and three WNITs).
“She came to Pepperdine, and the first thing she said was who do you recruit against?” Trakh said. “I said mid-major schools. She said, Coach, we’re going to recruit against the Pac-10. I said, Jody, it’s not that easy. And son of a gun if she didn’t do it.
“We got to the top of our conference, and a lot of it was Jody.”
In 2004, Trakh left to coach USC and took Wynn with him as an assistant.
They were together for another five seasons before Trakh took a two-year hiatus from coaching and Wynn was hired as the coach at Long Beach State.
Trakh returned to coaching in 2011 at New Mexico State and stayed for six seasons before being rehired at USC on April 21, 2017.
Four days earlier, Wynn was announced as the new coach at Washington.
“You can’t make this stuff up,” Wynn said, laughing. “He’s been a part of my life for so long, and now this. I still haven’t really wrapped my mind around it. I have no idea what I’ll be feeling that day.”
Wynn credits Trakh, who is godfather to one of her two daughters, for putting her in position to pursue her dreams.
“No. 1, he gave me a scholarship to play basketball at a great university,” she said. “Then there’s everything else. And that’s just so much. The basketball lessons. The life lessons. It’s a lot. It’s everything, really. So yeah, Sunday is going be awkward.”
Trakh is quick to point out that he’s benefited greatly from his relationship with Wynn. He’s adopted a pressure defense that leads the Pac-12 with 96 steals largely because of strategy conversations with Wynn.
“This mentor thing gets overblown sometimes,” the 61-year-old Trakh said, laughing. “If not for Jody, we don’t have the success we had at Pepperdine and I don’t get to coach USC.
“Whatever I’ve done for her, she’s done just as much for me if not more. She’s just the total package. Great student. Great player. Great mom. Great coach. And I have no doubt, she’ll have an amazing career at Washington.”