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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Q&A; with Niya Butts

    Arizona womens basketball head coach Niya Butts talks with the media during an April 4 press conference in McKale Center. Butts was busy during her first few weeks in Tucson as shes tried to finalize her staff and get her program in order for next season.
    Arizona women’s basketball head coach Niya Butts talks with the media during an April 4 press conference in McKale Center. Butts was busy during her first few weeks in Tucson as she’s tried to finalize her staff and get her program in order for next season.

    Hired on April 3, Arizona women’s basketball coach Niya Butts became the eighth coach in the program’s history and the youngest in the Pacific 10 Conference. The Arizona Daily Wildcat caught up with Butts yesterday in McKale Center to discuss her new job, her expectations for her team and her busy schedule.

    Wildcat: A few weeks into the job – still liking the weather?

    Butts: I love the weather. People say it’s gonna get worse – it keeps getting better for me. The hotter, the better.

    W: You’ve got some empty walls here in your office, what do you see going up there in five years?

    B: Hopefully some pictures of some tournament teams, champions and NCAA teams. You know … I’ve never really been a person to display accolades, so hopefully they’ll go in the Hall of Champions. Hopefully we’ll have a few put up there. With my walls – I’m kind of simple. I don’t know how much they’re going to change.

    W: Tell me about your first weeks on the job. What have you been doing since the women’s basketball Final Four?

    B: The No. 1 thing I’ve been doing is trying to get to know this team, try and get to know the players, hire a staff – all of those things. (I’ve been) getting out and meeting people in the community as much as I can. That’s been a lot of what I’ve been doing – trying to buy a house, trying to get healthcare. … All those things, normally you have a little time to get going, I’m kind of trying to do them all at once.

    W: How about getting to know the team. There’ve been a few transfers already, so how are you hoping to build within the team in terms of a sense of nucleus or chemistry?

    B: As much as I can get everyone I want on the court, that’s really what I’m looking forward to doing. Really, it’s going to be a lot easier once all my pieces are together in terms of the staff and having everybody here in Tucson. Everyone with the same vision … just trying to make sure I care about them. They’re student-athletes. … I’m going to hold them accountable. There’s going to be discipline in the program – establishing that early I think is critical.

    W: Do you think a lack of discipline is what the team lacked in the past?

    B: It’s hard for me to say what the program has had. … What I know is I’m going to put things in place that weren’t in place. With change comes adjustment, and so now they have to make adjustments to the way I like to do things and what my expectations are. … It’s just something new that I’m bringing.

    W: Have you gotten any feedback from the players as to what some of those new things are that differ between you and Joan Bonvicini – what they’re going to adjust to, or is it just starting a new page?

    B: It’s just closing the chapter on one book and opening another. And I think right now for the players, they’re all kind of waiting everyday to see what’s going to happen. It’s new, it’s exciting, but I have no doubt it’s also scary because it’s something new, and sometimes with change. They have to make adjustments – some good, some bad, but that’s something that we’re going to have to wait to see. It’s kind of a to-be-continued type of deal.

    W: Tell me about newly hired assistant Brady Manning and how the team has reacted to him.

    B: He is, I think, going to make me look good. He’s doing a great job already as my recruiting coordinator. I can’t tell you how much time he has already put in. Everybody seems to gravitate toward him. He has a great personality … doesn’t hurt that he has a pretty smile. They like that, but his wife will be here soon so she’ll get all that under control.

    W: You guys are both very young coaches. What are the pros and cons of that, as far as connecting with the team as coaches? Is youth something you want to build on as a coaching staff?

    B: If people had one word that I’ll say to describe myself … it would probably be ‘energetic.’ That is something that I look for (and) a quality I look for in a player. … That is something that is so very important to me, and I think as far as youth goes, it is so much as an advantage. Right now, with the way coaches are going away to students, a lot of times being able to relate to them means all the world. … The perception of the kid is going to be, ‘you know what, I can trust what you’re saying.’

    W: How about the recruits lined up? I know coach Bonvicini had a good class in 2012. Have you been in contact with them?

    B: All of those kids that were signed … are still coming as we sit here and speak. Obviously you know just as well as I know, things can happen just like that. I don’t anticipate that, but they’re all signed up and ready to come. I look forward to working with them.

    W: Before he left, former assistant coach Bernard Scott said a big part of the team’s problems last year were academics and emotional issues. How much value do you put in those when you’re recruiting?

    B: I think you have to put a lot of value into that. Sometimes, however – not all the time – it is a precursor of what they’re going to do when they’re in college. … You have to look at that because it’s such a huge part. You can’t just go to school anymore and get by in some class that doesn’t really matter. … I think you have to weigh those things.

    W: What’s on your schedule for the next few weeks?

    B: Oh lord.

    W: What’s not on your schedule for the next few weeks?

    B: Going to a spa. Haven’t been to a spa yet. I’ve got a lot of getting staff in here, getting everybody acclimated, getting my office set up the way I want it set up, summer school … work outs, finalizing academics here and making sure we end on a good note. And just getting geared up for summer, trying to align the recruiting for the next couple years. … That’s been a lot of it.

    – interview by Bryan Roy

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