Boyle excited about Buffs basketball

Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle earned respect of team in first season. Now he looks to build upon CU's success.

Tad Boyle still hears about it.

Last spring, the University of Colorado men's basketball team felt it belonged in the NCAA Tournament. Boyle, the Buffs' head coach, believed they belonged there. So, did a lot of other people.

Of course, the Buffs weren't selected for the Big Dance, instead accepting a bid to the National Invitation Tournament and getting all the way to the semifinals.

"The disappointment of not getting into the NCAA Tournament is with all of us," Boyle said. "I get comments wherever I go, even this summer, about the injustice people felt we incurred."

Even with that disappointment, however, Boyle could not have been much more pleased with his first season as CU's head coach.

No, the Buffs didn't get to the NCAA Tournament and there were disappointing losses along the way. But, they set a school record for wins in a season, going 24-14. They also set a school record with 18 home wins. They made their first postseason trip in five years and won a postseason game for the first time since 1999.

"Overall, I'm not sure I could have scripted it any better than the way it went," he said.

At this time a year ago, Boyle was an unknown commodity. In 2009-10, he led Northern Colorado to the most wins in its history (25-8), but Boyle had never been a head coach in a BCS conference such as the Big 12.

Even CU's players, including senior Cory Higgins and super sophomore Alec Burks, were curious as to what they were getting with Boyle.

"They didn't ask for it. A new coach was thrust upon them," Boyle said. "I was in that situation as a player, so I knew what they were going through.

"The biggest thing as a new coach ... is earning the respect of your players," he said. "In today's day and age, that has to be earned and that trust has to be developed. I was really pleased with how that went."

Higgins played a big role in Boyle feeling welcome. The star guard bought into Boyle's philosophy and system from the start. That helped the rest of the team feel better about the new coach, too.

"Leadership is critical on any team. Especially in a transitional year, having great leadership was needed for our team to be successful," Boyle said.

Higgins and fellow seniors Levi Knutson and Marcus Relphorde provided that leadership. That trio also played exceptional basketball, teaming with Burks to form quite a lineup.

Burks, despite being a sophomore, was the best of the bunch, scoring 20.5 points per game. Higgins (16.1), Knutson (11.7) and Relphorde (11.2) were also significant contributors

The group made Boyle's transition to Boulder easier.

"Your first year on any job is the hardest in many respects, in terms of getting your feet planted and understanding the dynamics of the job and the university and the way things works," he said. "Adjusting to a new league and a new team and having that team adjust to you and your staff."

Season No. 2 of the Boyle era won't be any easier, however.

Like last year, Boyle has to adjust to a new league. While CU was a long-time member of the Big 12, that league was new to Boyle. This year, the Buffs are moving to the Pac-12 - a new adventure for all involved.

Boyle also has to find a way to replace his top guns from a year ago. Higgins, Knutson and Relphorde all exhausted their eligibility. Burks left CU for the NBA. That foursome scored 59.4 of the 79.6 points per game that CU netted last year.

"You hate losing great players like that but you're very proud of them as they move on and hope they have success in whatever they do," Boyle said.

Boyle isn't too worried about what the Buffs are losing, however. He's excited about what is coming back and eager to see what they are gaining - and how they can build upon their great 2010-11 season.

"I'm extremely excited about Colorado basketball," he said. "I don't want to be a one-hit wonder. We want to get this thing rebuilt quickly and have it sustain itself."

It's a task no less challenging than the one he faced a year ago. And, like last year, Boyle is up to the challenge.

"The future is bright," he said.

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