Enthusiastic Barnes Arico aims to lay new foundation in first week

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Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico is readying for her first season in Ann Arbor. Buy this photo

By Greg Garno, Daily Sports Writer
and Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 2, 2012

Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico stood in the William Davidson Player Development Center with a smile splashed across her face, standing relaxed and waiting to begin practice.

You didn’t need to see her demeanor, though, you could hear her excitement in her voice.

“We’re all extremely excited to be here, from the staff to the players down to the support staff,” Barnes Arico said. “I think the culture that we’re creating is extremely exciting. Everybody wants to be a part of it and get started.”

Though just two days of official practice have passed, Barnes Arico’s upbeat personality has already carried over to the court.

Barnes Arico enters her first season as head coach at Michigan, replacing former coach Kevin Borseth. Before coming to Ann Arbor in April, she capped her 10-year tenure at St. John’s with three-consecutive NCAA Tournament berths. In her final season at the helm of the Red Storm, she guided the team to the Sweet 16.

While her expectations are high for her new program, Barnes Arico said she isn’t focused on building off of last season — Michigan’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years, which ended with a loss to Oklahoma in the first round. Instead, she is building an entirely new foundation for the 40-year-old program.

“I think one of the big things for me is not to compare it to things they’ve had in past,” Barnes Arico said. “It’s a new time for them as players, it’s a new time for our program and it’s a challenge for me.”

Michigan returns 11 players this year, including five seniors. Among them is senior center Rachel Scheffer, the team's leading scorer in 2011-2012.

Known for running a fast-paced offense and a strong defense, Barnes Arico was also clear about her plans for the 2012-2013 squad.

“We would like to get up and down (the court) — we would like to be the best-conditioned team in the country as well as the team that works the hardest,” Barnes Arico said. “That’s what we’re really stressing early on — just going hard in everything you do.“

Barnes Arico has also had to adjust to life off the court in Ann Arbor with her husband and three children.

From coaching clinics to speaking at the student watch party at Michigan Stadium before Michigan football’s season opener, she has quickly immersed herself in the city and the University community.

“I would have only left (St. John's) for something incredibly special — and that is Michigan,” Barnes Arico said. “It’s an incredible place. Everything about the place — from the facilities to the academic reputation, the national reputation, the resources, but even the entire community.

“Not only is a great place to go to college, but it’s a great place to raise your family. The community has been embracing as well as the Michigan community. Everyone has been just wonderful.”

Barnes Arico, who leaves Ann Arbor to continue recruiting on Wednesday, already has plans to open up a practice to season ticket holders and host a clinic for girls in the community later this month.

In her free time, Barnes Arico trains and runs on the streets of Ann Arbor. Her training may be an effort to run another marathon after completing her first, the New York City Marathon, last year.

Her goals also extend beyond the court as well, as Barnes Arico said she hopes to enhance the reputation of Michigan women’s basketball in the community.

“I think the number one thing is for the community to feel connected,” she said. “They need to feel a relationship with us and I think it’s part of my job is to go out and build that relationship. (We want to) promote the program and what these young ladies stand for and how much they work and how we’re building a championship year for the women’s basketball program.”

If the animated Barnes Arico has one setback in her outstanding career, it may be working late into the night.

“I’m just a high-energy person,” Barnes Arico said. “Unless you catch me after nine, then I’m not really high energy. That’s a bit of a problem.”

Someone should warn her about the 13 night games she plays this season, then.