By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 10, 2012
On Wednesday, Michigan women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico stood at the podium in the Junge Center to address the media for the first time since her formal introductory press conference in April. With her bright maize shirt on, she spoke of a theme that expresses her players embracing something new.
The idea was “buying in.”
“They want to be great,” Barnes Arico said. “They want to find a way to win. They want to figure it out. They are Michigan kids, and they have embraced me and bought into our style of play.”
After being hired to replace former coach Kevin Borseth, who left to return to his former post at Wisconsin-Green Bay, Barnes Arico has used the last four-plus months to get to know her players on and off the court.
“They are a phenomenal group of young ladies and I am proud to be their coach,” Barnes Arico said. “When they faced a change like they faced at the end of the year this year, it could have been difficult and they could have handled it in a different way.”
But they didn’t, and a key reason for that is the leadership of the five returning seniors, led by guard Jenny Ryan, who quickly recognized Barnes Arico’s passion and drive.
“You just look at her last success at Saint John’s, knowing she’s coming back from a top-10 program that got to the Sweet 16, it takes about a half-second to understand that it’s a program that works, it’s a philosophy that works,” Ryan said. “It literally took me half a second to realize the phenomenal, successful system and all of us have bought into it right away and there’s been no second-guessing ever since.”
Barnes Arico noted the quick recognition and acceptance of her coaching style while speaking about Ryan’s leadership, along with senior forwards Rachel Sheffer and Sam Arnold and senior guards Nya Jordan and Kate Thompson. In the same breath she also talked about how she appreciates their hard work.
“These seniors have really been a part of building something special,” Barnes Arico said. “That group of five that has been with us for the longest period of time really set the tone every single day. They’re a special group, and really setting the example for all the kids that follow behind them.”
As much as Barnes Arico seeks to establish her own brand, she knows the origins of her team, and doesn’t want them to think it’s a completely new team because of a new coach and system.
“I’m not going to forget what these kids have done and where they come from to put this team where it is right now,” Barnes Arico said. “It’s their program and I’m coming in to their program. It’s important for me to learn about them and not forget who they are or the strengths of that team. I think I’m learning from them as much as they’re learning from me.”
Barnes Arico tried to establish this trust early on by calling the five seniors together as a group and telling them how special they’ve has been in changing the state of the program.
“They’ve kind of embraced that (talk), they’ve tried to connect with the younger kids as much as possible. They try to take ownership and leadership for our team,” Barnes Arico said. “They’ve really reached out to the staff, to the younger kids in the program. I really think they really understand the importance of team chemistry.”
For Ryan, the bridge to connect the seniors’ already established foundation of success and the philosophies of a new coaching staff is simple – winning.
“I think that we all have the same goal in mind: wanting to win the Big Ten Championship and do well in the tournament,” said Ryan. “The only way to do that is to be the hardest-working team in America.”