Buffs Get Their Woman

New Colorado women's basketball head coach Kathy McConnell-Miller was introduced to members of the press and the public Wednesday. Inside, the coach talks about what drew her to the opportunity to coach the Buffs.

New CU athletic director Mike Bohn introduced McConnell-Miller in the Dal Ward Center to a crowd of roughly 75 people made up media, athletic department personnel, fans and CU women's basketball players.

Bohn said he believes McConnell-Miller is "the brightest, up-and-coming coach in America," high praise for the 37-year-old coach who spent the past six seasons at the helm of the Tulsa program. Before that, McConnell-Miller was an assistant at Illinois. She played college ball at Virginia.

The hire comes two weeks after Wisconsin-Green Bay head coach Kevin Borseth first accepted, then turned down the CU job. Bohn's hiring had not been finalized when Borseth waffled on his decision, but Bohn was heavily involved in McConnell-Miller's hire.

McConnell-Miller said she was interested in the CU job when she heard that Ceal Barry was retiring in March. She was not involved in the first round of inquiries and interviews, but was among a small group of coaches who interviewed with Bohn and CU officials over this past weekend.

One of eight children, she is one of six McConnell siblings who attended college on a basketball scholarship. Five McConnell's are presently in the coaching ranks, one at the professional level, one at the college level, and three at the high school level. Her older sister, Suzie McConnell-Serio, is the head coach for the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA.

McConnell-Miller and her husband, Brad Miller, have three children, ages 5, 3 and 8 months.

Here are the quotes from the press conference.

Athletic Director Mike Bohn
On McConnell-Miller
I think it has been a real interesting ride the last several weeks, and the first thing I want to do is salute our team. Our women's basketball players that (former) coach (Ceal) Barry recruited and still have eligibility here, have been real superstars as far as their patience, as far as their passion and as far as their willingness to allow the process to continue to work itself all the way through. My hat is off to our team first.

I believe our new head coach is inheriting some great young ladies. Again, that is a tribute to them and to the previous staff.

I'd also like to say ‘thank you' Ceal Barry, (associate athletic director) Karen Morrison and other members of the committee who helped so much in this process. I believe that it is important for everyone to understand that in order to attract the coach that we were able to bring to the University of Colorado, it takes a lot of people to engage in that process. They have to clearly understand the environment, to clearly understand the traditions and clearly understand the support basis that is here.

When I first had the opportunity to talk with Kathy, we talked about the people in this room, the people that are in this community. That is what makes this a great institution and a great job.

Obviously, the background that Ceal built up and the success here is well documented. But, if you get a look at the other pieces that are also important — faculty members on campus that were involved in the decision process; everybody who contributed to make this happen. I think that is why we are very fortunate to have what I believe to be the brightest, up-and-coming coach in America joining our program.

I think there is no question that when we were looking for a coach, we really felt like we needed to do as much homework as we could. I think we know more about coach McConnell-Miller and her program than maybe her husband does; and I think that's a good thing. Again, that's a tribute to Ceal and Karen and others that were integral to that process.

We were looking for a coach with an intensity that could match what our fan base has. We were looking for character, and integrity and work ethic. Every single time we'd evaluate different characteristics, Kathy's name and what she stands for were clearly in the spotlight.

That's why I think this is not only a great day for the University of Colorado, , but for the athletic department, the city of Boulder and for this state.

We have been successful in attracting a leader, an individual who will be engaged in the community at every level and someone who will help build this athletic program to the next level.

Kathy McConnell-Miller

Opening Comments
Thanks, Mike. That was a pretty unbelievable introduction. I think I'd like to play for you after that.

This day for me, my family, my husband is one of the best days of my life. I, professionally, cannot believe that I am sitting up here and will eventually be representing you as your head coach. This is an unbelievable opportunity for me. I want to thank, first and foremost, Athletic Director Judy MacLeod and Dr. Bob Lawless, former president of the University of Tulsa, for giving me the opportunity to become a head coach there and establish myself in the women's game. It has been a wonderful situation for me and I've grown in so many ways. I have grown and matured as an individual, as a coach, as a mom and in every aspect of my life.

I am ready for this job; I am ready for the opportunity to continue what Ceal Barry, the legend in our game, has done. Ceal, I want to thank you for sharing your strengths, with me for sharing what you've done and for sharing this program with me. What you've done for our game is exceptional, and I know I can never replace you. But, I'm proud to be standing next to you and to continue the tradition and build on it.


I'd like to thank Mike. It's been a great 10 days or so from the initial phone call. Throughout this process, the integrity, the confidentiality, the relationship I formed with him, I know that I'm a person who can work day in and day out with Mike Bohn. He's wonderful, he has inspired me from every aspect of this search.

There's a lot of things that go into being a coach, especially for a woman and especially for somebody that is married. You can't do it without an unbelievable support system, and I believe that I have that. My husband, Brad, he's the best. Everyone asks me, ‘How do you feel you're going to balance being a mom, being a wife, being a coach, being a sister to these players.' I think I do that fairly well. But I think I'm probably the worst at being a wife. I know I make many sacrifices, and Brad does as well for me to do my job.

I will not compromise my family, this job and my responsibility. I know what it takes. I know the step I made from Illinois to Tulsa was sort of a test for me to see if I can balance it. Knowing what I know over the past six years and what I've been able to balance, I feel like I can handle that. I know it's a question in most people's minds, and sometimes it's a question in my mind, when I get up and know what I've got to do in the next 18 hours. But it's a challenge that I will take on every single day.

I had the opportunity to meet with this team and the opportunity to talk to them. They didn't have a lot of questions; they didn't have a lot of requests. They just had this look in their eyes that they wanted somebody in here that was going to motivate them, that was going to surround them with other players and then put them in a situation to be successful.

It only took few minutes to realize that this is a great group of young ladies. For me, the ability to recruit, to bring in complementary players and role players and All-Americans into this program, that's my job. I need to blend the present players with the future players. Recruiting is a big part of that.

I have been a lot of places; I've recruited all over the country and I'm looking forward to broadening that horizon and really finding players to represent you and this university. I'm extremely excited about it.

Q: You mentioned Ceal Barry as a legend. How comfortable are you that with Ceal still being here in the athletic department that you can make this team your team?
Very comfortable. Ceal and I have had many conversations, and Ceal has decided to move on and take on a different area of her life to grow in. I would be a fool not to utilize her in every aspect of my job.

From the first conversation that I had with her, she has been embracing. She knows what it takes, and she's done it. The game has changed, and we've talked a great deal about how the game has changed in the past 20 years. I like that part of the game; I like the players today and I like what's required of recruiting a player today. You get to know them on a level that maybe you didn't in the past.

The game has changed and technology has changed, but I am looking forward to that. I love Ceal. I love what's she's done. We've spent time together on the road. Nobody can deny what Ceal has done for this program, and that will be recognized over the next 20 years.


Q: Not a lot of people are familiar with the style of play you had at Tulsa, and will you adopt that here?
I do know the triangle offense; I have seen it. One of Ceal's coaches (and Tulsa opponent) Jen Warden runs it. I have had to prepare for it the last three years. I know what it takes and what it's all about, but I do have a little bit of a different style.

I like an up-tempo style of play. What I've really understood over the past six years is that you have to adjust to your players. You have to adjust to their athleticism, or lack thereof, their size, their speed, what they can handle and what they can't. But, if I was to pick a team and start from scratch, I like an up-tempo style. I like pressure, I like point guards who are generals on the floor and can handle the ball, can put it where it needs to be and can look at me and know what I'm thinking and know we need to do. I have that idea, but as coaches you have to make adjustments.

Q: Could you have picked a tougher conference to come into?
I don't think so. I have been in Oklahoma the last six years, so I've been surrounded by the Big 12. Football, men's basketball, women's basketball – it was all around us.

The Tulsa men would win a big game and Oklahoma State would beat Centenary and that'd be the front page story. I know the conference, I know the prestige and that was attractive to me.

I am from the East Coast. I played in the ACC, coached in the Big East, coached in the Big 10, but I can tell you there is something pretty unbelievable about the Big 12. I am well aware of what I'm up against and the differences.

Q: Are you ready to face a legend every night … Jody Conradt, Marsha Sharp?
Well, it's going to take a little time. That's going to take a little building. I'd like to first evaluate the team, get a couple recruiting classes under my belt. But there's no doubt I know who they are.

I love this game. I'm around it, I watch it. This is what I felt like I was going to do when I was in college. I've become a student of the game and watch it on the men and women's side.

Q: Have you begun to assemble a staff?
I have two people on my present staff that will come with me. One, Mike Neighbors, the other, Bethann Ord, who I've known for six years and has been my recruiting coordinator. Mike graduated from Arkansas and was at Arkansas before Tulsa. The two of them are prepared to come to Boulder. I have two openings, and obviously I will evaluate the present staff. I've also had probably 15 to 20 phone calls in the last 24 hours when it actually hit that this was going to happen. But, I think I need to take my time and evaluate and find somebody that has ties and strengths in Colorado.

Q: Can you tell us about where you were in the original coaching search process?
I can't speak for the original process. I wasn't in it before my initial phone call from Mike Bohn. For me, that's what I needed. I needed a director that I know wanted me, did his homework, and felt comfortable with. First meeting, there was no doubt in my mind that he was somebody I would like to work for.

Q: What told you that this school has the outside things, the budget, the fans to compete in this conferrence?
One thing is the perception of the program from anybody. From coaches in our game and from players, the perception is that the University of Colorado can win a national championship. That's the perception. Everything is in place for that to happen. After meeting people and visiting and touring this campus, and seeing exactly what the reality is, those expectations are met, that you can win at Colorado and compete in the Big 12 and on a national level; it is reality.

Q: There's been a decline in attendance over the past several years. Have you talked to Mike or Ceal on how to get people back involved with the program?
Absolutely. I think that (attendance fluctuation) is cyclical. Things happen, whether it's wins and losses or something else happening in the state. Those things happen. But, there definitely is going to be a push to increase this attendance. (Ceal Barry) is speaking 15 times (as part of the speakers' bureau) in the next two weeks to continue to promote the program. I will do the same. If you put a product on the floor that people like to see, then the attendance will increase. But to me – I don't care if it's an elementary school, a grocery store or the bank – if I'm there, I m talking CU basketball, and that's it.

Ceal Barry
On McConnell-Miller: We wanted somebody who is really going to take care of the kids and that is really going to care about the kids. I think Kathy really cares about her players. She is relationship-driven. I think this is going to be a smooth transition for our players and staff. It will be a tremendous fit.

She is excited about the job, and her husband is excited about being in Boulder. For the players, it was their No. 1 choice, and I think being able to turn around from the prior situation to Kathy being hired, it just worked out the way it was supposed to work out.

She is a confident coach, she has a lot of personality and she's got respect for people. We've never coached against each other, but we'd see one another on the road. This is going to be a good situation.

BuffStampede Top Stories