Q&A with Joanne Boyle

Aug. 28, 2006

BERKELEY, Calif. - Cal head coach Joanne Boyle served as one of two assistant coaches for the 2006 USA FIBA Americas U20 Championship team which won a gold medal Aug. 8-12 in Mexico City. The USA has now qualified for the 2007 FIBA U21 World Championship July 27-Aug. 5 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Boyle directed Cal to an 18-12 record and a first-round NCAA Tournament appearance during her inaugural 2005-06 season in Berkeley, marking the Bears' first winning record and postseason bid since 1992-93. She recently sat down with CalBears.com to discuss her stint with USA Basketball.

CalBears.com: How was your USA Basketball experience?

Boyle: 'It was great. You go in wondering what you're going to get out of it, and I think you get out of it more than you anticipate. For me, it was getting to be around other coaches and sharing ideas. Joanne (McCallie, Michigan State head coach) has been very successful, and Sam (Dixon, Furman head coach) has been very successful. Not only basketball Xs and Os but philosophies in general, managing your team and motivational stuff. It was great to be around them and bounce ideas off of them.

The other aspect was to see what USA Basketball is all about and what it really means for these kids to get involved and how it is a farm system for the Olympics. It was interesting to learn what USA Basketball is looking for. It's not just about talent. It is about what is your attitude, how are you a team player, how do you fit it, what's your chemistry with the other players, how do you handle yourself, and how do you conduct yourself. They're trying to groom people and create a package. It was interesting to see how that whole process works.

It was neat to see the girls buy into what we were trying to do and become selfless. They're all great players for their teams, but we were one of the most selfless teams that played in the tournament. That was nice to see.'

CalBears.com: Did it surprise you how dominating the USA victories were?

Boyle: 'What happened was with some teams like Brazil and Canada, I think they pulled some kids who would have been involved and put them onto their national team to start to groom them. They depleted their 20-and-under teams a bit. We knew going in that we should win the gold, but you have to prepare as though it is what it is. We tried to get the kids focused by finding little goals. We're beating a team by 80, what within that game can we create as a goal and not worry about the score. Brazil was better than the final score (96-54). We were only up 10 at the half, and we came out strong in the second half and they folded.'

CalBears.com: What are some of your most memorable moments of your experience with USA Basketball?

Boyle: 'One of them had to be back at the trials in May when they picked three Cal players (Alexis Gray-Lawson, Devanei Hampton and Ashley Walker). I think Lexi was picked first. I knew she was on the bubble a little bit, so when they said her name, I don't think I heard anyone else's name throughout the whole thing. Having three of our four kids make it said a lot about their growth within our program and their individual development. That was neat. When we got to Mexico City, we had to adapt. There was one bus for six teams, and it looked like the Partridge family bus. You went to the games with your opponents. The food was a challenge for us. One of the cool things was after the ceremonies, Mexico, Jamaica and Canada couldn't wait to trade jerseys with the American players.'

CalBears.com: Is it possible to predict the impact Cal's Devanei Hampton would have had if she didn't injure her knee in Mexico City during a practice prior to the start of the tournament?

Boyle: 'She definitely would have had an impact. She had a good May trials, and then we reconvened in Los Angeles in July, and she was out of shape. She had to work hard to prove to the USA Basketball committee that she deserved to be on the team, that she could bring something. When she made it, from that point on, she got better and better. The thing I was impressed with by Devanei was that every time she walked on the court whether she played well or didn't play well she was working as hard as she possibly could. I never could say to her after practice that she had to work harder. I saw that growth. She was consistent with how she approached practice. We were having two-a-days. Going against Elaina Larkins and Courtney Paris all of the time, she started to feel like she was right there with those players. Then she got hurt, but she realized what an opportunity she had and might continue to have. She embraced that because she got to play with 11 other girls she liked.

Carol Callans, the president of USA Basketball, and McCallie had a conversation with her how she grew over the time we were there and how they want her back with USA Basketball next year and to take what she learned from this and to bring it to our team. Their words made a huge impact on her in terms of that she is valued and that there are other opportunities for her outside of Oakland and Berkeley. She has a career ahead of her when she graduates and has the potential to be in the Olympic mix down the road. She has never been exposed to that. The smile has not left her face in four to six weeks.'

CalBears.com: What did you learn from your fellow coaches that you may utilize at Cal?

Boyle: Joanne is a big reader like me. It was kind of fun to be thrown back into being an assistant and decisions aren't your call. Joanne was great about not making Sam and I feel like assistants. Gail (Goestenkors, Duke head coach) was very much like that. It was neat to go back into that role and see things from a different perspective than another person would and have your opinion valued. I talked to Joanne a lot about philosophies about kids today, motivational stuff. We talked about formulating your team like it being a puzzle.

Every now and then you get a chance to go out and sign five studs, and it almost never works out. You have to understand your team and understand what pieces of the puzzle you need to ultimately make it successful. It's about what pieces fit - personality being a big part of that, unselfish kids, kids who want to be at Cal or Michigan State. She told me they don't get the studs, but that they get great Midwestern kids that buy into the program. We're both big on roles. We're very similar in some ways and different in others. That's how I felt with Gail, too. It was interesting to bounce those things off of Joanne and Sam.'

CalBears.com: Have you thought about what role you might want to play with USA Basketball in the future?

Boyle: 'Everything is run by a committee. Joanne (McCallie) wants to keep her staff in tact. Head coaches are on a two-year contract, while assistants are on a one-year one. Part of it is that they want to give new coaches opportunities. Joanne wants our staff to stay together for worlds. We'll have to wait and see what happens.'

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