Kim Barnes Arico wants to rouse 'sleeping giant' as Michigan women's basketball coach
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Within minutes, Kim Barnes Arico had the Michigan fan base eating from the palm of her hands.
Formally introduced as the new women's basketball head coach Monday at Michigan Stadium, Barnes Arico talked about pushing for league championships, turning the tide against Michigan State and turning the program into "something special."
And then, she really won Wolverine fans over.
"I don't want to steal from somebody else," Barnes Arico said with a smile. "But, it's the University of Michigan.
"For God sakes."
Flanked by her parents, her husband, Larry, and her three children -- Trevor, Emma and Cecelia -- Barnes Arico made her first public appearance as the program's head coach since the university announced Friday she'd succeed former head coach Kevin Borseth.
Also on hand in support of Barnes Arico was Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon, as well as men's basketball coach John Beilein and his entire staff.
The all-time winningest coach in St. John's history, Barnes Arico spoke of the challenges she faced with the Red Storm, a program that went from winning eight games her first season to 24 last year.
She went above and beyond at St. John's. And intends to do the same in Ann Arbor.
"I think Kevin (Borseth) did a tremendous job, he got this program back to the NCAA Tournament," she said. "There's something special about Michigan, and I've been able to accomplish things in the past that, probably, people before me had thought could never be done.
"I'm confident enough that, what you have here with the resources and the people, along with me -- (we) can do it. You're probably saying (things) 'haven't been done before, how's it going to get done?' I think that's why I'm here. And I have this opportunity to show everyone that."
Barnes Arico takes over for Borseth, who went 87-73 with one NCAA appearance in five seasons before departing for Wisconsin-Green Bay earlier this month.
Brandon said the school has not worked out a formal contract with Barnes Arico yet, but that it will be a "multi-year" agreement once finalized. At present, Barnes Arico said she's in the process of filling out her coaching staff -- something she hopes to have done soon.
"Years and years ago, the comment was made that St. John's was the burial ground for women's basketball coaches," Brandon said. "They were as down as you could be, and a lot of people told Kim 'don't take that job.' But she took it.
"And when you snap UConn's 99-game winning streak at UConn, when you finish third in that conference third behind Notre Dame and UConn, both Final Four programs, go to the Sweet 16 a couple times and regularly get yourself into the NCAA, you're a coach. You're a very special coach. We're thrilled (she's here)."
Brandon said Barnes Arico was one of two candidates brought on campus for an interview, the other being current Penn State coach -- and Flint native -- Coquese Washington.
He would not comment on whether Washington had been offered the position, but shortly after reports of her Ann Arbor visit surfaced, Penn State held a news conference reaffirming her role as the program's head coach.
Barnes Arico inherits a Michigan program that has made just five NCAA Tournament appearances since introducing women's basketball as a varsity sport in 1973-74.
In those five appearances, Michigan has only advanced twice, and has never gone beyond the second round.
Barnes Arico hopes to change all that.
"I'm not saying things can happen tomorrow, but I've been there," she said. "I've been in a program that kind of was down. And I watched it turn, and I didn't only watch it turn just to be in the middle, but watched it turn to get to the top.
"Part of it is you've got to get players to believe, you've got to set the tone every single day, you have to have an administration that truly believes."
In addition to the NCAA Tournament struggles, the Michigan women's program hasn't exactly shined against its traditional rivals.
Prior to sweeping the season series with Ohio State last year, the Wolverines had dropped 14 straight to the Buckeyes.
Also, the Wolverines have lost nine straight games to rival Michigan State, and 18 of their last 19 meetings with the Spartans.
Again, Barnes Arico hopes to change all that.
"Before I got to St. John's, or even the first six years, (they) were in a similar situation with Rutgers, where they had beaten us 15 straight times," she said. "But now, the tide has turned, and we beat them four straight.
"I think it's time. I know (Michigan State) has a great program, I know they have a great tradition in women's basketball, I know they have a tremendous coach. But we have all those things, too."
In the end, Barnes Arico didn't make any promises, electing to point to her track record of program reclamation projects as proof she can get the job done.
Michigan has never had a consistently successful women's basketball program.
But now, it believes it has finally found the leader who can make that happen.
And all she wants is a shot to prove it.
"Just give me a chance," she said. "When I took over at St. John's, we were the worst of the worst in the country. Ten years later, we did things no one ever thought was imaginable.
"I had a chance to watch (Michigan play last season), I had a chance to meet Dave Brandon, I had a chance to see the university. For me, it's just a sleeping giant."
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