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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Picking up Pennies: Roberts Looks to Establish the Process in First Year

Picking+up+Pennies%3A+Roberts+Looks+to+Establish+the+Process+in+First+Year
Bryan Davis

From the foundation of a brand new basketball facility, a talented young group of players and one of the most passionate fan bases in the Pac-12, first-year head coach Lynne Roberts is ready to build a culture in the Utah women’s basketball program.

While there is already a buzz of excitement surrounding the team about Roberts, her message is clear — establishing the same winning culture and system that rocketed her teams at Pacific from the dregs of the Northwest conference standings to the WNIT is going to take time.

“There is no quick solution, no quick fix, no miracle button. It takes time and patience and a lot of hard work,” Roberts said.

Those Pacific teams went a combined 43-77 from 2007-08 to 2010-11 before flipping the conference standings and going a combined 84-45 and making four straight WNIT appearances from 2011-12 to 2014-15.

“Process” has been Roberts’ buzzword regarding the team since her arrival last April. Process in offseason conditioning, process in watching game film, process in practice. Roberts is fully invested in establishing roots at Utah and creating a culture of effort and commitment for years to come.

Senior guard Danielle Rodriguez is one of the veterans on a team flooded with underclassmen. With a new coach coming in trying to establish a culture, it’s crucial to get Rodriguez on board with Roberts’ plan, and the senior guard has responded positively to the process.

“[Roberts] wants us to have fun and that’s being in the process and that’s where you have fun, that’s where you build and get ready,” Rodriguez said. “If you’re too focused on the future without putting in the work now, you can’t get anywhere. It’s okay to have goals but focusing on the process to get to those goals rather than focusing on the outcome of those goals. It’s like rather than focusing on winning the game, focusing on what we can do to win the game.”

While expectations for Utah in the win-loss column this season are relatively low following its combined 21-40 record over the last two seasons, Roberts has her own set of expectations.

“My expectations are that we stay committed to the process,” she said. “That we stick together. We just have to handle adversity, whether it’s injury or a tough loss, or a tough road trip or whatever. As the saying goes, picking up pennies, you pick up pennies day after day after day it adds up to a lot. We just have to keep doing that.”

Wins are going to be tough to come by in the formidable Pac-12, particularly for a young team coming off a conference-worst 3-15 record. The goals for this season are as much about the collective buy-in of a new approach as they are about wins.

But Roberts’ has a competitive bug that the players are going to catch, if they haven’t already.

“I want these guys to have fun playing. I want them to enjoy the experience of being at Utah,” Roberts said. “But understand that every time we step on the floor we want to win. We’ve got a long way to go, but I think we’re competitive … We’re going to do just fine throughout the season because I know we’re going to compete.”

Fans can expect to see a much different team as well this year. Roberts championed a run-and-gun style of play at Pacific that translated not only to wins but to an electric brand of basketball, characterized by ball movement and transition scoring.

“I’m very proud of the team, the way they’ve bought in,” Roberts said of her players. “Every kid will tell you they want to play up-tempo but to do it you’ve got to be in shape. We’ve got some athletes and we’ve got some skilled players and we’re going to get out and run.”

Utah will look to carry its success from a 77-69 win over Fort Lewis in last week’s exhibition game into the season opener this Friday against South Dakota. Tipoff will be at 5:30 p.m. MST in the Huntsman Center.

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