For Kim Barnes Arico, an extension was a long time in the making.
On Jul. 12, it became a done deal. Her contract — acquired by The Daily via a Freedom of Information Act request — runs through the 2022-23 season and earns her $728,000 per year, plus bonuses if the team wins the Big Ten title or makes the NCAA Tournament.
But even before this year, which brought the Wolverines’ first March Madness appearance since 2013, Barnes Arico knew she wanted to stay with Michigan.
“I left the East Coast after pretty much 40 years for an opportunity to work at … Michigan,” Barnes Arico said. “ … This is a place where I want to continue to build, I want to continue to grow, I want to continue to raise my family. So it’s a place I wanted to call home for a long, long period of time.”
In 2012, Barnes Arico left St. John’s University to take over a Wolverine program that was mired in mediocrity. After a period of success in the late 1990s, Michigan had only made the NCAA Tournament once since 2002. The first few years under Barnes Arico simultaneously brought the most success the program had in over a decade and the disappointment of frequently coming so close to a Tournament return, only to be relegated to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
But when the Wolverines finally broke through in 2018 — beating Northern Colorado in the first round before losing to Baylor in the second — Barnes Arico saw the potential for future progress in her rebuilt program. Athletic director Warde Manuel noticed, too, and throughout the season he expressed approval with the trajectory of the program. There, the foundation for the extension began.
Now, Barnes Arico’s focus has shifted from rebuilding to maintaining a sustained level of success.
“When I came to Michigan, Michigan women’s basketball hadn’t won the Big Ten and Michigan women’s basketball hadn’t been a consistent NCAA Tournament team and a consistent 20-win (team),” Barnes Arico said. “So I think consistency in our program is really important … to be an NCAA Tournament team year in and year out. To be a Big Ten championship program.”
And though the Wolverines have seen progress on that front — winning 20 games every year of Barnes Arico’s tenure — they still haven’t finished better than third in the Big Ten and have only made the NCAA Tournament twice in the six years since she took over.
If the NCAA Tournament appearance last year laid the groundwork for Barnes Arico’s vision of a consistently competitive Michigan team, this year’s 12th-ranked recruiting class, according to ESPN, is a good building block, especially after losing Katelynn Flaherty — the Wolverines’ all-time scoring leader. Barnes Arico wanted to commit to the program’s future by signing through the freshmen’s collegiate careers.
“Obviously, they want to come to the University of Michigan,” Barnes Arico said. “ … But they are also making a commitment to me and our basketball staff, and it’s important for them to know when they make the commitment, I will be here throughout the course of their career.”
Barnes Arico also brought on assistant coach Yvonne Sanchez, Director of Player Personnel Alice de Fazio and graduate assistant Jenny Ryan. Sanchez will help develop the guards — including top point guard recruit Amy Dilk — while de Fazio will take on an administrative role and Ryan — who played with the Wolverines from 2009-2013 — will help mentor the younger players.
Sanchez will earn a base salary of $120,000 with additional benefits for a conference title or NCAA Tournament success.
With her extension — a symbol of Barnes Arico’s commitment to the program she believes Michigan can become — a strong freshman class and a bolstered coaching staff, the missing piece is the consistency that has become Barnes Arico’s main focus.
“It definitely is a process, and I am so grateful to the University for giving us time to build because things are not built overnight and it takes time and it takes commitment,” Barnes Arico said. “… (We want) to keep improving, to keep taking those steps forward and to be a consistent performer, day in and day out.”
Daily sports writer Ethan Sears and Daily sports editor Max Marcovitch also contributed to the reporting of this story.