Williams: We're going to commit to the players
May 21, 2012
Jack Graham: Thanks, everybody, for coming out, on what couldn’t be a better late spring day. First of all, I’d like to pass on Dr. Tony Frank’s regrets for not being here. He had every intention of being here; this just happened a heck of a lot faster than he thought he would, and he’s out in Portland, Ore., actually, helping his daughter move in for the summer session. He’d be here except for that.
I’ve got the great privilege and excitement of being able to introduce to you all our next women’s head basketball coach, Coach Ryun Williams. I’ll bring him up to the podium in just a second.
First, I’d like to explain to you all the process we employed to find Coach Williams. The operative words here, that I think are so important, are that we didn’t go out and look for a coach who was available; we went out and looked for a coach that we wanted. So, we did a ton of digging and researching, and sourced Coach Williams’ name, along with a few other names that we thought would make good coaching candidates to be Colorado State’s head basketball coach. The process included about 75 applicants and a number of other candidates that we had sourced ourselves. We narrowed that down to a list of nine candidates, interviewed them for a very, very long time—about four hours each—narrowed that list to three and held final interviews. Coach Williams is sick of me at this point. We picked Coach Williams through a very lengthy process to become our head coach, as a result of that.
I can tell you I think he’s a very well-qualified coach. Let me give you a little bit of his background.
He is a native of Gillette, Wyo., as is his wife, Lyndy. That is the one negative in his background; he’s from Wyoming. A graduate of Campbell County High School, he was an outstanding student and basketball player. He was named Mr. Basketball for the state of Wyoming, in 1988. Coach Williams knows how to play basketball. He’s a graduate of the University of South Dakota. He got his undergraduate degree from the University of South Dakota. He graduated with honors, including his master’s degree from the University of South Dakota. He was an all-conference basketball player at the University of South Dakota, and also a point of interest, he led the nation in free-throw percentage at 91.2 percent; that’s not a trivial number. He was also an academic all-conference basketball player there at USD.
He started his coaching career at Sheridan College, a junior college. He was there for three years, from 1995-1998. He compiled a record of 54-38, including 28-5 in his final season at Sheridan. It’s always fun to see a coach have that level of success with an expectation that that level of success can be replicated here, as well. After Sheridan, he went on to Wayne State, in Nebraska, which Coach Williams has characterized as a one-traffic light town. He had 10 great years there. He was there from 1998-2008. He inherited a team that had only 13 wins in two seasons when he showed up at Wayne State, and he transformed Wayne State into a legitimate NCAA tournament team for the years that he was there. That was at the D-II level. He compiled a record of 181 wins and 105 losses during that 10-year timeframe, including a season that was 27-4, in the 2005-06 season, when they went to the NCAA tournament.
From Wayne State he went on to the University of South Dakota. His record in the four years that he was at the University of South Dakota was 80-46. During that timeframe, it was the first time in USD’s history that they made a postseason appearance, and they had their first postseason wins at the D-I level. He was an important part of the transition for the University of South Dakota, from a D-II competitor to a D-I competitor, which, for those of you who know is a very difficult task to tackle and take on, and he succeeded at that significantly.
You’ll find that defense is a cornerstone of the style of play that Coach Williams will bring to Colorado State University, and that was true at the University of South Dakota. Last season, at USD, they were second in the nation in blocked shots, they were eighth in field-goal defense—this is at the D-I level—they were 12th in scoring defense, giving up only 52 points per game and they had the best-ever RPI—that’s a difficulty of schedule ranking—at the D-I level. They were ranked 87th in the country in terms of difficulty of schedule, and compiled a record of 23-8. Just as a point of reference, our RPI was 186, and we compiled a record of 13-16. So clearly he was playing at a very competitive level. They beat seven teams last year that made postseason appearances, including three teams that were in the NCAA tournament. His lifetime record is 315-189; this guy knows how to win. He posted his 300th win in January of this year, so we’re very excited about that.
I think in terms of aspirations, Coach Williams and I spent an extensive amount of time together talking about what our expectations and standards are going forward, and I can tell you that he and I are hooked at the hip in terms of where we would like to see Colorado State women’s basketball go. Simply put, it’s our expectation that we are going to return to a tradition of greatness, where we will be consistently talking about our program being ranked in the top 25 in the country and going to the NCAA tournament consistently. He knows that he is inheriting a group of great athletes, great women that are coming back for the 2012-13 basketball season. We have an expectation—he has an expectation—that we will be competing effectively and that we will even be competing for the Mountain West Conference championship. He will be driving us in that decision.
Importantly, he has re-recruited our whole team. Our whole team is back; that’s not something to be taken for granted whenever a new coach shows up. Everybody that was on this team that is eligible to play in 2012-13 will be playing, including all of the recruits that were signed earlier this year. He’s contact all of them, and all of those recruits will be showing up, as well. That, in and of itself, is a great accomplishment.
I can tell you that Coach Williams and I talked about what it takes to achieve the expectations and standards that we have for ourselves and for our university, and we say that there are two things that we need to have here to win and win effectively. They’re really complicated. No. 1 we need people. We need great people. We have great student-athletes that are on our basketball team, and we need great coaches. I am thrilled to turn this podium over to Coach Williams to allow him to talk about the coaching staff that he has recruited and that will be coming along with him. I will say without hesitation that I think he has recruited perhaps the finest coaching staff in the country. When you hear about them, you’ll be very excited. That’s No. 1, and then the second piece is resources. It always takes money and resources to run and business or athletic program successfully, and we’re making real investments in Colorado State women’s basketball. He’s seen the budget that’s committed to our women’s basketball program for the coming basketball season; it’s very different from what’s been there in prior years, and it will, hopefully, give us the resources—combined with great people—to compete at the most competitive level going forward.
Again, I’ll let Coach Williams talk about and introduce his staff, but I would like to take a moment and just introduce his family. This all happened very quickly; we got to an agreement with one another on Saturday, and Coach Williams was able to bring his whole family with him. His wife, Lyndy, is here with us, and his two daughters, Natalie and Emily. Natalie will be a freshman in high school and Emily will be moving into the sixth grade. Welcome, you guys, to Fort Collins and Colorado State. When you get the chance to meet his wife, Lyndy, you’ll agree—as all of us have said about most of our wives—he married up big time. He did really well.
With that, it’s my great privilege and pleasure, and with great excitement, that I turn the podium over and welcome to Colorado State our new head women’s basketball coach, Coach Ryun Williams.
Head Coach Ryun Williams: I’m kind of a notes guy; I wrote these on the plane. There’s always turbulence coming into Denver, so it’s a little hard to read, but thank you, Jack, for that nice introduction. I want to get one thing straight: Wyoming did not recruit me out of high school; I was Mr. Basketball. Let’s face it, there are only six high schools in Class 4A, but I thought it was a big deal. They didn’t recruit me; I remember that. I remember that, absolutely! I know we’ve got some Wyoming fans in the stands today, but we’re coming after you.
Again, thank you very much. This is a great day for myself, and for my family. I’m glad that Jack took time to introduce my family, because the last press conference that I was a part of, I forgot them. Let’s face it; they’re the most important part of me. I’m up here today because I have a very wonderful and supporting wife, who, when we don’t win, she tells us what we did wrong, and when we do win, she’s also taking a little credit for it. Natalie and Emily, they sit on our bench every game. Every game. Since I’ve started coaching and they were old enough to sit on the bench, they’ve been there. They’ve been in our locker room, they come to practices, they are a part of our CSU basketball team and family. That’s a fun thing, isn’t it girls? Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes it gets me in a little trouble. They are in the locker room, and it’s not always smooth in there. Sometimes we get a little animated and maybe say some things we regret, but Emily’s kind of the one who when we go home will say, ‘Mom, it was five. Or, Mom, it was seven.’ I try not to slip and use those bad words, because the bad-word busters are right there. But it’s really fun having them around and I love you guys very much, and thank you for supporting this.
It’s funny, because every person has to be on board with everything involving this. Family is so, so huge. The last move we made, I think, was pretty traumatic for our family, the transition from Wayne State to South Dakota. We were very connected there, and that was tough. When we had our family meeting and we said, ‘What do you guys think of CSU?’, it was jumping off the couch, it was this, it was that, they are on board and all in. Funny story, a few days before I came out here for my first interview, Emily, my youngest, actually went to the orthodontist. This was after we had our little family conversation about maybe CSU, maybe Fort Collins. She comes home from the orthodontist, and Em, I’m going to ask you to smile, babe. See those green rubber bands on those braces? See that? That’s how much she believed in me. That’s why I love my family so much.
Jack shared his vision, and Tony’s vision. That’s a very special, special charge. To be able to have the privilege and the honor to be in charge of those expectations and that vision, I’m truly honored, and truly humbled. I will work my tail off, and I know my staff and players will, as well. It’s my job, and I want to make you look really, really smart.
Jack: That’s a big job.
Coach Williams: That’s a big job? I won’t comment on that. I don’t want to get my butt fired on the first day. I’ve always looked at this job, and I think most people would agree that it’s kind of a ‘wow’ job. First of all, Fort Collins, what a place. What a place to bring a young recruit, a young lady to Fort Collins. Holy cow, I forget who said it, but per capita, the most restaurants in the country next to San Fran? Let’s face it, everybody likes to eat. When we came in on our interview, the chauffer, or the limo guy, was driving us in and Lyndy’s first comment was, ‘Whoa, all the shops!’ And then it was, ‘Whoa, all the places to eat!’ And then we drove past 24-Hour Fitness and it was, ‘Yeah, maybe we’ll be there, too.’ This is a very, very neat community. I understand that, we understand that. We have family here in Fort Collins, we’ve visited this place, we’ve had Thanksgivings right here, very special engagements right here in this fine city. We know how special it is. To be able to bring, again, a recruit here, with the fine people and what this place has to offer, why not? Why can’t we get really, really good here and get really, really good players.
With that I’ve always looked at this job as, this is awesome. Now you add Jack’s vision and the resources that he’s putting into this and there should be expectations. That is our staff’s job, take this program just where it needs to go. And that is a very high level; with what we are given and what is already here. I look forward to doing that.
You don’t get a job like this without being surrounded by great people and wherever I have been, you talk about the successes and wins and those sort of things, that is not me it’s the people I work with, it’s from the people I’ve been blessed to coach from my whole career, from Sheridan to Wayne to USD. Now to CSU. To the coach, to the players, to the administrators, they have to help you be successful and that is why I’m standing here today. People are special and I’m very thankful for the opportunities I’ve been blessed with at all the stops that I’ve been at. I do understand that it is about the people and Jack stated that.
Our players. You’re right on the front line. We’ll treat you right. We’ll be committed to you, you be committed to us, be committed to CSU. We’ll be a nice team.
Step one for this program is we have to build, let’s face it. It can be better. I don’t think we need to sugar coat and paint rosy pictures right now, we got a nice group of young ladies. I just talked to them in the locker room about some of the expectations. Our first step, we need to build this thing into a winning program. That is where it’s got to start. How do you do that? We’re going to commit to the players. Our staff has got to commit to the players. There has to be a great respect there and honestly ladies, you’re going to get it. You got to put together a great staff. Who is going to coach this group? Who is going to lead this group? You got to put great people in charge of what they’re good at. I’ll share with you here in a second about our staff.
I talked to our team, we want to be great, that is not lip service or anything but how do you get there? We weren’t great last year, we were 13-16. We got to start by, let’s have a winning program. Let’s build a winning mentality. Let’s come to work every single day, every single day just give me every single possession all your might, all your heart, all your intelligence, and then we’ll start progressing. Just come be the best you can every single day. Then we start to grow that and pretty soon we’re pretty darn good. We start winning basketball games.
Our team has set goals, let’s win the Mountain West. Let’s do it. We’re good enough too. My job is going to be to work as hard as I can to make that happen. They set a goal to win the Mountain West tournament, an NCAA tournament bid. Absolutely. That is our charge, why not? Why not? It is a process and it is not a microwave process. These babies got to be slow cookers to build something great, to build something truly great, to establish something that will last. Not one-year wonders, not two-year wonders but a program that people look at in the Mountain West and say, ‘yeah they’re doing it right. They’re doing it right every single year. They play hard and right every single game.’ That wears the conference out if we can do that here. But that is a process that doesn’t take place overnight. We’re just going to come to work every day and give you our best effort and low-and-behold it is going to happen. Y’all on board with that?
I just want to take a few minutes here and introduce our staff. Jack talked about the best staff in the country. Some of these guys are my great friends so I’m not going to tell you that. They’ll get egos. We do have a very special group to help these young ladies.
I’ll start by introducing Chad Lavin. Some of you might know Chad. He was the head coach at Wyoming for 12 years. He has 12 years of division-one experience. He is a National Coach of the Year. This guy can teach, this guy can coach, he is a very good friend of mine and he’ll be great for me. He’ll be great for our players. It’s special that he is here to help lead this charge. I think, ladies, when you get an opportunity to work with him, Chad is going to be in charge of our development. I think you’ll see these players develop. You’ll love what he brings to the table. So I’m very grateful that Chad is back in the game and he’ll be helping us. So we’re very lucky there.
Kim Austin, I’m going to keep it right there, Kim. Alright girl? Kim played here. She is part of the great history of Colorado State women’s basketball. Just pull up her bio. Kim is a special lady. Kim is going to be our recruiting coordinator. The first time I met her in person was about two hours ago and what a vibrant young lady. I mean, what recruit wouldn’t want to come play for that? That is a brilliant move by me putting her in charge of recruiting. That is big time. Kim, welcome aboard.
One thing we did talk about in our locker room with our kids, I think we need to start taking pride in, there has been great success here. You go in our locker room there is championships, sweet-16’s, all of that stuff. Becky Hammon, there have been a lot of really, really good players here. It is our job to carry the torch. We got to play with great courage. We have to represent the history of this program and that will not be forgotten. We absolutely need to enhance that and bringing Kim on board, that is where it starts. Quality player here, but she knows how it got done. So I look forward to working with Kim there.
Tim Moser, a Colorado guy, the Moser name here in Colorado is a big name. I competed against Tim in junior college. He beat my butt in the Region Nine Championship. We were favored to blow them out and he had a huge game. He shattered my dreams of going to the national tournament. We coached against each other when he was at Otero Junior College, very successful junior college coach and he has been at Alaska-Anchorage where he has just won and won and won. Just a quality basketball coach, who understands Colorado, understands the role of a coach in a program whether it’s as an assistant or a head coach. He has been in the trenches.
This is a great staff. It is a unique staff in that you’ve got two coaches that have been head coaches at the junior college level, you’ve got a division one coach, you’ve got a national coach of the year, you’ve got a brilliant recruiting coordinator. That is an awesome group.
I want to introduce Mandy Koupal, she is going to be our director of basketball ops. This young lady gets it. Mandy has been with me at South Dakota for the last four years and she is my No. 1 assistant. She is a big reason why South Dakota basketball got to the postseason and flourished during a tough transition from Division II to Division I. That is not easy doing that. We did it with flying colors and Mandy is a big reason for that. She is a National Player of the Year. This kid is a big time player. Do your research, I’m not going to pump her too much. Becky Hammon, I know you guys know who she is, everybody says she is the best player to come out of South Dakota, but Koupy is going to turn all red but this kid East River, South Dakota they might say she is the best player to come out of South Dakota. She can play but she is also a very, very good teacher. She has organized me for four years and that is not easy.
I look at this group, with our strengths and I don’t screw this up and use them right, what player is not going to want to come and be a CSU Ram. We need to get the best players in Colorado. Why not? We can recruit regionally. The Rocky Mountain region, the mid-west, this is a national type of school. We’re going to get really good kids in here, just like we have now. It starts in the front line.
We are more than 13-16. You’re good enough, we’re good enough. So let’s get our tails in that weight room, let’s get our jump shots up, let’s have a great summer that is what it is all about, let’s come ready to work and you’ll like the results. I guarantee it. These ladies are good players, but what else are they? They’re high character kids.
This is a great opportunity for me, it really, really is. I don’t take that for granted. I do appreciate the trust to be your basketball coach. We’re going to give you everything we have and you’re going to enjoy watching us play. We need more people in those seats. They’ve been there and they’re still out there in Fort Collins, but right now they’re disguised as empty seats. We have to take off that disguise and get people in those seats. Obviously, winning brings people to our games.
The way we’re going to play, you’re going to see a very passionate team. He talked about defense, we scored the ball too, Jack. We can put the ball in the basket. We’ll do that as well. You’re going to see a team that plays very hard defensively, you’re going to see a team that values the basketball, that plays together, you’re going to see a group of young ladies that understands their role. They have the freedom to execute their role. So when everybody knows that, that is good basketball. That is together basketball. That is winning basketball. Whatever it takes to win, we are going to do it.
Thanks a lot again. Let’s open this baby up for questions.
On what sold him on coming to CSU: “That is a great question. To just pick out one overwhelming quality of this program is difficult because there are a lot of them. Jack’s vision and his commitment to getting this baby done, coaches like to hear that. Everywhere I’ve been my charge has been, we have to outperform our resources and I hated saying that. We’re given some pretty solid resources here, you guys. He is very committed. I would say that is it. Family is important, growing up in Wyoming that is where my mom and dad are. Cousins are awesome, right guys? They’re going to get a chance to see their cousins more, grandma’s and grandpa’s. So to be closer to family, like I said, we have great family here in Fort Collins. Don’t we all like family? So, an opportunity to come back and be closer. There is no place better to come back and be closer to family than in Fort Collins.”
On long-term commitment to CSU: “We are committed to this place. This is it, this is the stop. I’ve always told recruits when we were at the University of South Dakota, ‘the only way I’m leaving South Dakota is if I can get closer to home.’ What jobs are better than that and closer to home than right here? I’m not leaving. I’m not leaving. I want to be your all-time winningest coach 25 years from now. That is my goal. You got me for a long time folks.”
On initial thoughts on current roster: “We’ve looked at it. That is a pretty good team. They beat everybody in the Mountain West. I think you have some good skill. You do have some good athletes. There is some post play, some guard play, shot it fairly well. There is a group there. Let’s not just beat everybody in the Mountain West one time, let’s beat them twice. So obviously it is there. We’re going to get more out of it. I like our roster.”
On what family is living in Fort Collins: “I don’t know if I want to introduce them to you. I don’t like them that much, really I don’t. Just kidding. I like having the mic when these guys can’t say anything. My wife’s aunt and uncles and her cousins are here in town. Obviously, Natalie and Emily’s cousins. There are ten or so in town. They’re trouble. No, they’re awesome.”