with gallery: New Michigan women's basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico injects freshness into program
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Kim Barnes Arico will soon start her first season as the head coach for the Michigan women’s basketball program, and make no mistake, she’s determined to make her mark on the program.
But taking over a program in good shape - the Wolverines were 20-12 and made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 11 years last season - and with three returning starters, means making a mark doesn't include blowing things up and starting from scratch.
“Relationships are two-way streets. Obviously, I think it is really important anytime you take over a program to remember that those kids committed to Michigan before I was here,” Arico said at the team’s media day on Wednesday. “It is their program and I am coming into their program. It is really important for me to learn about them and not forget who they are or the strengths of that team.”
Of course Arico is still the coach, so she's done most of the teaching.
Arico’s predecessor, Kevin Borseth, didn’t leave on bad terms with the program, but players said a new coach and new approach has added a fresh new feel to the upcoming season.
“As a basketball player you just want to learn as much as you can about basketball,” said senior Jenny Ryan. “It’s real exciting to change styles do something a little different, learn a little more. Add to your game.
“Even though I only have one year, we’ve all bought in and it’s real exciting,” Ryan said.
Though basketball is a game and supposed to be fun, there’s no doubt that the grind of the season can wear on even the most dedicated of players. Having a new coaching staff can inject new life into a game that can feel as monotonous of a job as any.
“It really does (feel new). It’s kind of a weird feeling because everything is so new, but at the same time it’s also like your ‘last first practice,’” said senior guard Kate Thompson. “It’s a very weird feeling but honestly it’s been a blessing.”
Arico has the resume to back up what she preaches, with four NCAA Tournament appearances in her ten years as head coach at St. John’s, including a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2012.
“I was just excited to have a new system and you just have to buy into it. The success that coach Rico’s had in the past, I got really excited for that to carry over here,” Thompson said.
From the word ‘go’ players -- from unsigned freshman to fifth year seniors -- bought into what Arico was preaching.
“I committed to the University of Michigan because I wanted to come here,” said freshman Madison Ristovski, who easily could have gone somewhere else when the coach that recruited her, Borseth, stepped down. “After I met coach Arico and the intensity she brought to the table, I bought in.”
Arico believes that “all in” approach will benefit the team in her first season.
“The great thing about these young ladies, and that is what I tried to allude to in the beginning, is that they have bought in,” Arico said. “They want to be great. They want to find a way to win. They want to figure it out and they believe."