VandyMania Interview: Melanie Balcomb's Whitney D. talked at length with women's basketball head coach Melanie Balcomb, who's now entering her third season with the Commodores. Balcomb talks about some of her expectations for the 2004-05 team.


VandyMania: The first year you were here, there were a lot of changes, new coaches, new players, new system, new everything. The second year, a big group of freshmen came in, including new point guard. This year, it seems to me more like a house with the structure already built. It doesn't seem like the huge changes you had to face in other years, even though you have key players to replace. It seems like this is more about solidifying what you put together last year. Would you agree with that assessment?

Coach Melanie Balcomb: Oh,

Melanie Balcomb (VandyMania/ Whitney D.)
definitely. I think we just need to get better at doing the things that we've been doing. I always joke at the banquet that it's starting to look like it's supposed to look. It just needs to get better. We need to tweak some things. But most of it is really, like you said, the structure's there now. It's exciting for me to have players who already know the system and are now leading the other kids and passing it on down. It makes it a lot easier because we can go a lot faster and get things in quicker and I think we'll hopefully be ready earlier than in the past. We've made runs down the stretch, but I'm hoping to be a little better earlier.

VandyMania: From what you observed today, what are your impressions, things that jump out at you from today's practice?

Coach Balcomb:I think the biggest thing is that in three years, this is the first practice that I've had that we got everything done that we had in the practice plan and actually were ahead of schedule. That shows a lot to me, not just physically but mentally, that we're ahead of where we've been just from being here for three years. And, like you said, with the base and the knowledge and the leadership, and the players are more comfortable and know what we expect and it makes it easier for them to be ready for today, and I thought that they were really ready.

VandyMania: Could you make any specific comments about any particular player, in terms of improvement in strength, conditioning or skills?

Coach Balcomb: Individually, I think the biggest thing is the jump from freshman to sophomore. I always as a coach believed that the biggest change you see in maturity, development - physical, mental, just everything - is when you have a freshman go to a sophomore, and of course we have six of them. So the majority of the team we're seeing right now will be stronger physically, be stronger mentally. I think we'll be mentally tougher than we were last year. I think we'll be calmer. I think we'll be more confident. I've seen all those things in practice the first day.
Melanie Balcomb (VandyMania/ Whitney D.)

VandyMania: You've seen that already?

Coach Balcomb: They carry themselves differently. They carry themselves to class differently each day. And to me as a coach, that's the most exciting part-- to see someone who goes from their freshman year to their sophomore year. I like that. I like what I see.

VandyMania: During halftime of the football broadcast, there was an interview with you. You made a comment I thought was interesting. You said you have a post, a point guard and a shooter. Could you elaborate on that?

Coach Balcomb: That's always been my philosophy as a recruiter. It's very very important to have a good post, a good shooter, and a good point guard. And if you have those things, and then you have players that excel at their roles as role players, you can have a heckuva team. I just don't think you can win with just a good post and a good point and no shooter, or a good shooter and a point but no post. I think those three things are very important on the floor, and that's how I recruit. I want to make sure I have those three, and they have to be strong.

And this year I'm the most confident that we have the experience at all three of those positions, and then the surrounding the cast is going to be stronger also than it was last year hopefully because of individual improvement in the off-season.

VandyMania: Hillary Hager, who
Melanie Balcomb (VandyMania/ Whitney D.)
graduated last spring, is here as a graduate assistant. What is her role going to be?

Coach Balcomb: I think her role is going to be helping a lot in practice -- she'll be working with the guards -- and she already has been helping a lot in conditioning workouts. She's going to help a lot also on the academic end because she's a scholar-athlete. Those kids have so much respect for her, and so do we as a staff. But the biggest thing is I just wanted her around the program.

She's thinking about getting into coaching. I think she was to a point where she couldn't decide whether she wanted to be a doctor and go on to med school or be a coach. You can't do both. So she's taking some graduate classes in biology, and I think that this gives her a situation where she gets a taste of what we do in the office all day. I wanted to give her something back because she had done so much for the program, for us, for two years, and this gives her an opportunity to get a taste of both and decide what she wants to do from there.

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