July 8, 2014
Head coach Kim Barnes Arico is entering her third season at Michigan in 2014-15 after becoming the first U-M coach in school history to record back-to-back 20-win seasons. She rarely stops moving and this summer is no exception to that. On top of the normal July recruiting period and her quest to continue to work out every day, Barnes Arico will spend July 25-Aug. 10 in Colorado City with USA Basketball as a coach of the U18 team. Before hitting the road for a family vacation and recruiting in July, Barnes Arico chatted about the new team, focuses for the summer and where she thinks the program is after two years.
On the challenges of this summer ... "I think that, in our job, you really get accustomed to the fact that there is no offseason. It seems like you are always on the go. Anytime that you think that 'this break is coming' or 'next summer is going to be easier', something else comes up. With this summer being my third summer here, you would think things would be a little bit easier, but now we have added five new incoming kids. On top of that, I was already gone in May with USA Basketball and will be gone again in July and August with the team. It is still as busy as ever."
On whether it is exciting or challenging with five new freshmen ... "I think it is a combination of both. I am really excited about the opportunity to finally have these five women in the program. They are great kids, they are great basketball players and they are all from great families. We have waited a long time to get them here. I feel like it really is our first true recruiting class here, even though we recruited Siera Thompson, Danielle Williams and Paige Rakers last year, we got a late start to that class. We were really able to go through the whole process with this group for an extended period of time. It is super exciting and I am looking forward to the opportunity to coach them.
"It is a large group and that will bring a big change to our chemistry, our dynamic. I think that is going to be a focus of our offseason, developing our chemistry. We need to make sure the new kids are being welcomed by the older kids and that everyone is embracing each other because last year our team had really great chemistry, and we want to make sure that we continue to move forward with that."
On the biggest focus for the team this summer ... "I think that developing our chemistry is one of the most important things we can do this summer. On the other side of that, we really don't know what we will need to work on. There are a lot of unknowns with five new players coming in. We need to find their strengths and their weaknesses and figure out how to get them to improve individually. We also need to figure out what our program is going to be known for this year and what our strengths and weaknesses are as a group. That starts with our chemistry, and I think that it is important for our upperclassmen to be teaching the younger ones what it means to be a Michigan Wolverine, a student at the University of Michigan and part of our program."
On going from a young and inexperienced team in 2013-14 to an experienced team for 2014-15 ... "I think experience is a key to a lot of things. That helps your team get better and helps you win those close games. The other challenge with our players this year that they haven't faced is that last year they were unknown. I have said that to Cyesha Goree a lot lately. Last year, nobody knew about you. You weren't on anybody's scouting report. They didn't put their best defender on you. This year, you are going to headline everyone's scouting report. You are going to face other teams' best defender night in and night out. Now we have to take those next steps in our development, whether that is Cyesha, Siera, Shannon Smith or Nicole Elmblad. People know about them now so it is really important that their games continue to grow."
"I think experience makes everyone better. It gives you a better sense of confidence. Confidence can be so important. I can even tell in the early days since everyone has been back, how much more confident they all are. The confidence of Siera is different; the confidence of Cyesha is different. Last year was a great building year for everyone in the program."
On the coaching staff change and addition of Megan Duffy ... "I said this when Megan was hired and have seen it again the past few weeks since she is been here working, she is a rising star in this business. I think our staff with Megan, Melanie Moore and Joy McCorvey is incredible. I think that this change just adds another level to our already great staff. Their chemistry has been amazing as a group so far. They are working well together, both in the office and also on the court. With Megan being a player at the highest level, playing professionally and being an All-American at Notre Dame, kids look up to her and aspire to be like her. It helps with recruiting but even more with player development for the kids already in our program."
On her workout challenge ... "I am still going, even though I am the only one left. I checked the other day, and I think I am at 421 or 422 straight days of working out. I miss having a partner, but it is still fun to challenge myself. (Editor's note: Director of Operations Amy Mulligan and Barnes Arico each went 365 straight days with at least a 30-minute workout from the spring of 2013 until the spring of 2014. They ran a 5K race in April to commemorate a full year.) I am doing a 30-day ab challenge right now and hope to do another staff challenge at some point."
On what she hopes to get out of her time with USA Basketball later this summer ... "I am incredibly excited for the environment out there. Anytime you can represent your country and put on that USA shirt, it is with great honor and pride. I am really fortunate to work with Dawn Staley, who is the head coach of the team after spending time as a player with USA Basketball and is now doing a great job as the head coach at South Carolina. To be able to learn from different people is something that is really exciting for me. After our first session in May, I was able to take some things back with me to Ann Arbor. Just learning and continuing to grow is something that is so important to me so that I can continue to improve our program at Michigan. I think anytime you get to work with the best players in their age group that is really exciting. To see international competition at that age group is going to be great as well. I just want to continue to learn, continue to grow and get better when I am out there."
On where the program is after two years ... "Sometimes during the course of things, you never really get the opportunity to look back and reflect as the season goes on. To sit back in the summer and kind of see where we are and what the team has been able to do over the last two years is pretty incredible.
"Obviously my first year, I inherited a group of five seniors and we were able to set the record for wins and get to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. I think the thing I loved most about that first year was seeing that group of seniors really dig down and reach their potential. Watching how they grew, both individually and as a team, was something really special.
"Last year was a lot of fun because we really had no idea what kind of team we would be after losing so much after that first year. Getting to 20 wins and the third round of the WNIT with such an inexperienced team was incredible. They accomplished so many different things, setting individual and team records, in a season that we weren't sure how it was going to go.
"If you would have told me that two years in we would have the kind of success that we have had and the player development that we have had, I would have said no way. I am excited about our freshman class that just got here and I am excited about our future classes. I think that we have a terrific group of young women in our program right now, and I can't wait to see where we can go with this group. But the game is continuing to grow and our league, with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, has gotten significantly tougher. I also think that our league has shown to really improve the last couple of years with some really great teams returning this year. The challenge never gets easier but our program is in a really good place."