Joanne Boyle Press Conference Transcript
Virginia athletics director Craig Littlepage
Thank you, all, for being here with us today. On March 12, approximately 27 days ago, the process started to find a new leader for the University of Virginia women’s basketball program. It would have been very easy to have just settled and to have hired a coach maybe after a week or two, but instead we wanted to make sure that we found a fit, to find a perfect match for our program. Primarily we sought someone that would embrace our department’s 10-year goals of graduating student-athletes, winning championships, someone that would support our efforts to fund our program, someone that would be interested, also, in helping us provide the very best in terms of facilities, someone that would recruit the very best prospective students anywhere in the world, and then finally someone that was embracing our goal of providing equitable opportunities in all of our sports programs for student-athletes.
We were deliberate, we were thorough in this approach, but we’ve indeed found that match, and this afternoon I could not be more pleased. From the start of this process, we established that we would seek a head coach with demonstrated success in college programs that were similar to the University of Virginia. We wanted someone with a background in equally competitive academic and athletic settings, and we worked to identify that coach that would fit the model of what we’ve seen are proven characteristics for successful head coaches here at the University of Virginia. These characteristics are those of an educator-coach, one whose career is ascending, educator- coaches that embrace the unique traditions of the University of Virginia, in an academically and athletically competitive environment. These are people that are educator-coaches that take a genuine interest in the total development of every player that studies here and that wears a UVa uniform.
In addition, as we have with all of our head coaches, we’ve sought someone that has shown that they can achieve our program’s goals of being a championship‑contending program in the Atlantic Coast Conference and nationally. Feedback was sought from a variety of different what I would call industry experts and other important stakeholders. When Joanne Boyle was evaluated and compared using those characteristics that were just identified, she was a great fit. She was a perfect match.
She’s someone that was a successful player and an assistant coach at Duke University during that time that Duke’s program was building toward national prominence. She was a very successful head basketball coach at the University of Richmond just down the road, and most recently, the past six years, at the University of California Berkeley, programs at both institutions that are very similar to the University of Virginia.
Finally, she’s someone that’s regarded as being one of the top coaches in the country, one that motivates her players to high levels of academic achievement and one that seems to get the most out of her players, every player and each team, and one that wins at the highest levels.
Make no mistake about it; this is a big job, and it’s a big job to lead a program that’s established itself as one of the proudest and has one of the most outstanding traditions in the country for women’s college basketball. We acknowledge the great work that Coach Ryan did over her years here as our head coach in building this program and establishing that tradition.
Now we have someone that has shown to be up to the challenge of taking the baton and leading the program forward from this point. So today it’s my pleasure to introduce Coach Joanne Boyle. She becomes just the fourth head coach of the University of Virginia women’s basketball program. It’s my pleasure to introduce her and to welcome her to the University of Virginia.
Virginia women’s basketball coach Joanne Boyle
Thank you, everyone, for attending. I’d like to just introduce my mom, Joan Boyle; Sarah Holsinger, my director of basketball operations and her family; and I want to thank them for coming out and supporting. I would first like to thank President Sullivan, Craig Littlepage, Tony Bennett and the athletic administration for accepting me into the University of Virginia basketball family. I would also like to recognize and thank Sandy Barbour, Cal’s athletic director, and Chancellor Birgeneau for the opportunity and platform that they provided me for the last six years. To the current Cal team, for their lasting friendship and support of me in this decision, I will always wish them continued success.
“Don’t talk about what you have done or what you are going to do.” Mr. Jefferson’s instruction is timeless and well taken. The University of Virginia’s storied history of excellence and the remarkable people responsible for it compelled me to humbly except the responsibility of being UVa’s next women’s basketball coach. Thus my comments today will focus on the people responsible for the University’s and women’s basketball program’s tremendous history and promising future.
No one can replace Hall of Fame coach and Virginia icon Debbie Ryan. For the past 34 years UVa’s women’s basketball teams have been nationally competitive because Debbie instilled her own selflessness and unfailing commitment to UVa, her student-athletes and fans. I’m proud to acknowledge Coach Ryan as my mentor, inspiration and dear friend. These are just a few of the roles she is and will always play and maintain for me and countless former, current and future UVa student-athletes, alumni and fans.
Playing and coaching against UVa for a number of years equips me with a unique appreciation for Cavalier fans. Their support, cultivated by the success of Coach Ryan’s teams, is legendary in the ACC. Our fans’ commitment to our program will be vital to its continued success. My staff, student-athletes and I will earn their support, never take it for granted and match their enthusiasm and commitment for UVa.
The lifeblood of UVa’s women’s basketball is its student athletes past, present and future. My passion for coaching extends to mentoring my team, ultimately leading them to invest in their own success. Building relationships, respecting one another, instilling discipline and a work ethic, and being great role models in the community will always be the core principles of what our program stands for.
In closing, I want to express how blessed I feel coming back to the ACC, which is a homecoming for me in some ways. Virginia is an elite university in a premier conference, and it’s the ultimate opportunity to recruit and develop the country’s finest student-athletes.
Thank you very much.
Question: You spoke at some length about Debbie. Would you elaborate a little bit that you are replacing something of a legend? Do you see that as a privilege, a responsibility, a little bit of both maybe?
Boyle: All of that. I talked to Debbie on Saturday and have a great relationship with her, and you know, she’s a legend and she is the one that has paved the way for a lot of us, I’ll say younger coaches, but she has really paved the way for us to have these types of opportunities, and I just humbly accept and want to do best by her and the University and just have a charge forward to move this program and continue to build on her success.
Question: Was coming back to the ACC where you played, was that something you were looking forward to doing all along, or was it this opportunity that made it something you want to do? Can you kind of talk about the process that finds you here?
Boyle: You know, life is a journey, and it’s just time and place is everything. You know, I’ve kind of put my head down and just run with my career, and I look up and I’m 47 and looking at the next challenge or what I want to do. This opportunity opened up in the ACC and was a perfect time in my life, and it gets me back to the East Coast close to my family, and I know the ACC and the conference and the challenges it has but how competitive it is. So there’s just a right ‑‑ a lot of pieces that just fit together, and the time of my life was just a good time to be back here.
Question: When the news got out on March the 12th that Debbie would not be returning, did it occur to you that this might be a good fit for you?
Boyle: I mean, it definitely entered my mind. There were a lot of things going on, but yeah, it was ‑‑ I know I never expected it. It wasn’t something planned. So I think just when opportunities arise you always kind of take a look and say, what does that look like for me.
Question: Why Virginia and not your alma mater? What changed in that four years?
Boyle: I mean, there’s a lot of history that goes into that, but when the Duke job came open I had just been at Cal for two years, and I told that team, believe in me, trust in me, trust in our staff. We’ve been here, we’ve done it. I know how to get it done with a lot of good people around me, and let’s just go for it. And after two years, we hadn’t done a whole lot. We had made it to the tournament, we were building a program, but we hadn’t gotten it to where I wanted to get it.
You know, just again, I say time and place, but with the girls that were on the team at that time, there were definitely people that came in and out of their lives on a very inconsistent basis, and I just didn’t feel at that time that I could just ask them to believe in me and walk this path and then turn around in two years and leave. That was a big part of the decision.
But then four years later, we’ve built a program. A lot of people have built that program. I think it’s in great shape. There’s great kids there. And the next person coming in is going to take it and run with it. Again, I always ‑‑ I’m saying time and place and opportunity, but that’s really what happened.
Question: Would you talk a little bit about the decision, how tough it was, pros and cons?
Boyle: I don’t know if there was a time frame, and at least for me, you know, a lot of people say that it can’t be just about the kids, but for me that’s such a big part of what it was and it’s part of the reason I didn’t leave. And I struggled with it. I’m not saying this was an easy decision. But there’s just other factors at this time in my life that made it seem right. I don’t know if there was a time frame, I just definitely had to think about it, and you always bounce back and forth. I actually talked to Tony on the phone about some things, and I just kept coming back to the ACC and my family and time in my life and opportunity and ‑‑ you know, a challenge for me at the next level, a challenge.
So there were a lot of things that went into that decision. But I’m telling you, it’s never easy to leave a team.
Question: Can you just kind of talk about what are some of your philosophies and principles when it comes to the game, what you want to build for this program?
Boyle: Yeah, I mean, the ACC’s a challenge, it’s an athletic conference, big post play and big guard play and a lot of up and down. So I’ve always tried to have running teams who like to push in transition, always been a defensive‑minded coach, rebounding. I think you have to tweak your offense according to the personnel you have, so always looking. I try and study the game as much as I can. But you know, just evolve as a coach and a person, and when I was a player just tried to evolve as much as I can, but playing up tempo. As long as we have some depth, which I’ve never really had in the past, a lot of pressing when we can, and just play aggressively.
Question: You mentioned talking to Tony Bennett on the phone and having conversations with him. What kind of guidance was he able to give you in terms of kind of the same situation, picking up and moving his family across the country and taking another coaching job?
Boyle: A lot of different things. We just talked in general about kind of his time frame when he went through it and how he was feeling. You know, just the decision‑making process, and that ‑‑ just how great a place Virginia is and the support I’m going to get. It was the right decision for him, and he had to go through the process in his own head and with his family in order to make that, and it’s not easy. He just reassured me that some of the feelings I was feeling were just typical, normal, and to just follow your gut, and that’s what I did.
Question: Have you been able to look at the talent that you have on this year’s team? What do you anticipate for next year and what are your goals for the immediate future and the next couple years?
Boyle: Well, I’ve just been on planes back and forth the last couple days. So evaluating talent, I’ve watched a couple of tapes on the plane, and we all need depth, we all need physical post play, we all need big guard play, so I’m going to sit down as I acquire my staff and look at our needs and move forward with that.
But you know, I don’t want to have unrealistic goals, but my goals are to compete every day against the best competition to get my team prepared the best way I can. We always talk about can we finish in the upper half of the conference, put out a great product, have kids buy into the system and just play a high level of basketball and a game that’s fun to watch.
Question: How much does your experience at Richmond help in recruiting the Commonwealth now, or have you been gone too long or can you build those connections back up?
Boyle: Yeah, it always takes time to build the connections. But I know a lot of the East Coast people just because ‑‑ even when I went out west, we tried to recruit some East Coast kids, but obviously there’s a lot of talent and a lot of great schools on the East Coast, and we weren’t the Stanford that could just pluck somebody out. It’s not that we recruited that heavily on the East Coast, but my contacts through the recruiting world and the AAU events have always stayed tight, and a lot of those are the continuation of relationships I had from Duke and Richmond.
Question: How do you go about getting athletes from Virginia to stay in Virginia?
Boyle: I mean, it’s huge. It’s no different than how we approached Cal. It was ‑‑ really the theme was protect your state. And when we went out there, that was the thing is just to try to keep California kids in California and keep as many in the Bay Area as we could or drive the kids from L.A. up to the Bay and sell it.
I think you’ve got to sell what you have, and there’s a great product here. I think that’s why, at least where I feel comfortable, is it’s the academics and the athletics. I’ve always been at academic schools, so it’s selling what I believe in.
You’ve got to protect your state and you’ve got to try and keep as many kids at home, and again, you’ve got to win, and you’ve got to build a strong program and something that they believe in. That’s my first ‑‑ once I get my legs underneath me this week, my goal is to get on the phone and start ‑‑ Boo Williams Tournament and Deep South Tournament this weekend, just get out there, get my name and face out there, hire a staff and hit the ground running.
Question: You’ve been on a plane so I know it’s very difficult to answer, but as you think about your staff, you’ve got a lot of great players here at the University of Virginia who are leaving and a very talented staff. You have a talented staff at Cal. How close are you and what are some of the things you’re thinking about when it comes to filling that staff?
Boyle: It’s a work in progress. I’ve got a lot of feelers out there. Obviously I’ve had a lot of interest. A lot of times ‑‑ I need to have East Coast connections, so that’s a part of that. I want a great X and O person with me. I’ve had great X and O people with me. I’ve had such loyal people with me, people that are just great recruiters that get after it. So there’s just a balance going on. You know, whether people will come for me from the West Coast and build on that or if I have to start new here on the East Coast, I’m just really in the process of that. But got feelers out, phone calls out, those kind of things.
And I don’t want to build it immediately; I want to really take ‑‑ I don’t want to say take my time, but I want to make sure it’s the best fit to get off the ground running.
Question: Have you talked to the kids that are verbally committed?
Boyle: I’ve talked to Sarah, yeah. I had a good conversation with her on Saturday I think it was, and just excited to sit down and meet with her and her coach and just get to know each other a little bit.
Question: You mentioned winning championships. I wondered if you think that’s realistic?
Boyle: Yeah, I never ‑‑ I think the theme I always have in my head is no one is ever going to put more pressure on me than I’m going to put on myself. In taking a job, it’s not just let’s just be mediocre or let’s just finish in the middle of the pack or in the middle of the ACC. That’s not it. My goal is to do the best I can and win as much as we can and build a sustaining program and build a championship team, so that’s always a goal.
People always ask what’s the timeline. I can’t tell you. I’ve got to get a staff and a team together and start working with them and instill discipline and work ethic and confidence, and when you do that, then anything can happen. But my goal isn’t to come in and just be average.
Question: When you look back over your coaching career, would you say the illness you had at Duke affected you as a person and as a coach?
Boyle: I know it’s hard to say, but the AVM was probably one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, and I think people that have been in experiences like that can understand what I mean by that. I was at Duke for nine years, had a great career, loved it, was really comfortable, and that’s the word, comfortable, with Gail. We were going to the Final Four and we were always finishing one or two in the conference, and I got comfortable. The life‑threatening illness deal kind of sends you into a different thought process, and that is life’s really short, you never know when it’s going to end, and I didn’t want to be comfortable the rest of my life. So leaving Duke was to stretch me, and the fear of failure is always a part of, I think, head coaches and type A personalities, and mine was, you know what, if you go out and you fail, you’re still alive and you’ll figure out something else to do, and that’s what got me out the door.
Question: Talk a little bit about the landscape of the ACC. Just talk about the challenge of the ACC specifically.
Boyle: Yeah, like I said, it’s a great conference and great coaches, and it is a challenge. It’s not something that I’m not aware of coming in. Again, it’s everything I talk about from recruiting to building confidence to putting in a great system to hiring great staff that’s going to allow us to be better. Again, it’s not going to happen overnight, just even learning the ACC and style of play and those kind of things. You know, we’re going to put our best foot forward and we’re going to compete, and I think at the end of the day, I want my teams to just put everything they have out there and we’ll learn, we’ll get more players, and we’ll just keep building it.
Question: When you were at the University of Richmond UVa played its home games at University Hall. How has this building kind of changed your perception of this program?
Boyle: I mean, it’s an unbelievable facility. I mean, the best I’ve seen. You know, efficiency is a big part of it when I’ve been a different programs, just being able to be really efficient in your day. I mean, there’s all the bells and whistles and that’s great. I mean, when recruits walk in the door that’s what they see. But it’s also different. An athlete’s day is so busy and they’re doing 100,000 things in their day, and the more efficient you can make it then you cut down on the distractions and hopefully more focus. And for coaches, too, just the level of support here in every department, it takes things off your plate, and when that happens you get to focus more on what you love to do and what you’re hired to do, and that’s coach. And I think that’s a big part of why teams and universities can be successful.
Question: Your health issues clearly didn’t bother your career when you were at Duke. Have you talked to your teams more about life, and can you talk about how that’s so important to you when building your team?
Boyle: Yeah, I told them this morning I’m just pretty transparent. What you see is what you get. But I’ve learned a lot from a lot of great people in this business and just life lessons. My faith is the biggest thing that I have in my life, by far. If God wasn’t in my life, I don’t know where I’d be. And He just ‑‑ everything I do every day is just blessings to Him. I think He has allowed me the strength and the peace to go on the rocky road of basketball and coaching and all that and just ‑‑ I feel like I have a purpose, and I just talk to my team all the time about I think the biggest thing for me is having a purpose in my life. Basketball is the tool and the skill set that He’s given me to do what I’m supposed to do, and that’s how I approach life, and I try and instill that in my players, what that means, and just to be humbly thankful for everything that’s given you.
I know that walking into a building like this, young student-athletes a lot of times think, oh, everybody gets this, and it’s not that way. And there’s so many that would love to be in all of our spots. You have to approach each day as just being as thankful as you can, and when you’re in the grind be in the grind together, and when you’re on the mountain be on the mountain together.