What It Feels Like... To Coach the Lady Raider Basketball Team

Game day is no time for sleeping in. It’s the day Coach Kristy Curry looks forward to the most. It begins around 6:20 a.m., when she gets her daughters ready for school. After that, the morning is much the same as any other. She spends a lot of time on recruiting and returning phone calls. Sending e-mails, writing personal notes, catching up on how her recruits’ teams faired. Grabs some lunch around noon and heads to the team’s shoot-around.

Coach Kristy Curry

Game day is no time for sleeping in. It’s the day Coach Kristy Curry looks forward to the most. It begins around 6:20 a.m., when she gets her daughters ready for school. After that, the morning is much the same as any other. She spends a lot of time on recruiting and returning phone calls. Sending e-mails, writing personal notes, catching up on how her recruits’ teams faired. Grabs some lunch around noon and heads to the team’s shoot-around.

Shoot-Around

Coach Kristy Curry It’s 1 p.m. and the Lady Raiders have taken the court at the United Spirit Arena to warm up for the night’s game. Place seems groggy at this hour – like it just woke up from a hard slumber. Seats are empty. In just a few hours, it will thunder with the crescendo of several thousand stomping feet, but for now the arena is given over to the steady symphony of basketball:  shoes squeaking, leather hammering hardwood, shots jouncing off the rim. Players chanting: “Come on, baby, here we go!” Clapping: “Yeah, yeah.” Curry stands in a track suit, arms folded across her chest, eyes dissecting her players’ movements. She’s quiet, absorbed in her study, interjecting the occasional instruction, “Trap them. We’ve got to turn the corner and trap them. We start the game early in four. Four, then pitch and 14, Maria, let’s go!.” Stops practice, calls the team together. "I’m telling you, that tonight’s got to be something that’s about each one of you way down deep inside. Look at me. This is why you came to Texas Tech. We don’t have time for you to mess around. Every single possession, every single box out, every single offensive play, every single defensive rebound, every single timeout, you’ve got to have your heart and soul in it, way down deep inside." Breaks the huddle and sends the players out to continue their drills. CURRY: We have a plan of what we want to do. We’ve watched two days of film and have a very detailed scouting report of our opponent’s personnel, their tendencies, their strengths and weaknesses, things we want to exploit. We know what we want to run offensively and defensively, so during shoot-around, we remind players who they’re matched up against, the tendencies of their match-ups, and exactly how to attack them offensively and what to do defensively. Coach Kristy Curry reacts to a play courtside

In the Locker Room

Curry jots a few final thoughts on a whiteboard at the front of the room. No more track suit. This is business. Sharp suit, smart blazer, pants. Her marker squelches as she writes out assignments, tips, reminders. The players file in and fall into the cloth seats of their folding chairs. A few make quick trips to fetch items from their lockers. Others banter quietly, but mostly they wait. Curry turns, all eyes on her. She begins her run down the whiteboard, going over offense and defense, taking her players through the game. Her talk is part strategy session and part motivational speech. "We’re quicker, we’re faster. We’ll take that any day. So let’s use our quickness, our transition game, get up and down the floor and put at least 70 on the board. All right? Be the aggressor, get to the foul line. Get to the foul line, okay? Go inside the post, attack them." CURRY: We already had our test review during shoot-around, but this is the final opportunity to go through our plan before the game begins. I talk with the players about what we want to execute in the first four minutes of the game – what we want to do offensively, defensively. Our inbounds plays, our sidelines plays, our set plays, our motion. This is exactly what we reviewed at shoot-around, but this is just a chance to go over it again. Make sure that everyone is focused, give them a few quick reminders. But at the same time, you want them to have fun. You want to be relaxed and positive, you want to have a lot of energy. I believe that association brings on assimilation, so if the players see that I’m calm, poised, confident, then they are going to absorb that energy. Part of my job is helping them to be relaxed and wanting them to have fun with the experience ahead. Coach Kristy Curry watches courtside as the Lady Raiders play

The Walk to the Court

Pre-game is over, that twitchy span of butterfly minutes when the players are warming up and the sponsors are getting their due. Up in the arena, the opposing team has already taken the floor to spatters of applause. The lights go off.  Now the serious action starts. Announcer: ALL RIGHT LADY RAIDER NATION, LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE! Suddenly the arena is a pressure cooker, a rising tide of voices. Shadows and sound. Energy. Music blaring, bass beats bounding off concrete. Thousands of eyes focused down on the mouth of the tunnel where the Lady Raiders will soon emerge, player by player, to roars of applause. Down here, though, in the tunnels, in the belly of the arena, the chaos is muffled. Barely a murmur. Almost soothing, in its own way – like the ocean breathing. Yellow light blazes off of white paint. The players huddle, strong together, waiting for their cue to enter. This is the quiet before the storm. Curry hurries through the halls, chin thrust forward, her steps quick and precise. A few straggling fans wait behind partitions, smiling, waving, as she passes. “Good luck, coach,” one says. “Thank you,” Curry replies, ever gracious. Her smile is sincere, but she doesn’t break stride. CURRY: I always have a sheet of paper in my pocket with our game plan written on it – just some quick reminders that I can refer to. I might take a quick peek before the game starts, but mostly I’m thinking through exactly what I’d like to do to help my players: the last-minute points, that last huddle. Our team is so inexperienced this year that every little piece of information you can help them with, remind them of, is important. You have to have a coach on the floor, and that’s your point guard, so you certainly want to be in her ear pretty quickly right before the game begins to make sure she’s okay and she’s with the plan. Mostly, it’s making sure that the players are relaxed and prepared for what’s ahead. Coach Kristy Curry discusses plays with two Lady Raiders

The First Four Minutes

Sit. Stand. March. Squat. Curry moves through positions as the seconds tick past, swept up in the current of the game. She starts out sitting, but doesn’t stay that way for long. Too much action. Too much happening. Too many nerves. This is the culmination of months, maybe years, of effort. The recruiting, the scouting, the drills, the tape, the plotting, the instructing. Every Wednesday. Every weekend, a test. A string of tests. A season of tests. The show is on. Cheerleaders shouting, mascot dancing, band banging out riffs. Students in red paint and wigs. Fans – thousands of fans. Stomping. Cheering. Groaning. Cussing the refs. This is fun. On the court: controlled chaos. As the players weave their fluid dance across the floor, Curry and the other coaches absorb the action, studying movements, as their players settle in for the long fight. CURRY: We take the game in four-minute segments and make adjustments along the way that will put our team in a position to be successful. What match-ups do we have? Who do we want to play? Picking and choosing. It’s like a chess match. You know – trying to figure out what move is next; what’s the best move to make? I depend on my staff a whole lot. Coach (Bill) Brock handles the inbounds and a lot of the match-ups defensively. Kelly (Curry) handles many of the things on the offensive end. Shereka (Write) knows how many time-outs we have, what the foul situation is. Grant (Fausset) is recognizing where the ball is being thrown in, charting exactly what’s working offensively and what isn’t. So everybody has their own chore – several chores, actually. During every timeout we huddle quickly and we talk about exactly what’s going on. I’m smart enough to know that I need to rely on the people around me because you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. So, we kind of put all of our heads together and make a decision and hope that it’s the right one as we head into the next four-minute segment. Coach Kristy Curry reacts to a play courtside

Halftime

Déjà vu. The players file in, much as they did before the game, though by now they are breathing harder, skin sleek with sweat. They chat quietly as they wait in their chairs for the coaches to come in, twisting to face each other, talking about good plays, comparing notes. Through it all, the poker faces stay on. After all, there is still a second half to play. Finally the coaching staff files in. Curry’s assistants fan out across the back of the room as she steps to the whiteboard and begins addressing the players. CURRY: We have a room where the coaches meet. We go there first and get a box score, see how well we’re rebounding, assess our foul situation, who’s shooting the basketball well. After that we look at our opponent’s stats and how well they’re doing. You can gather a lot from the stats sheet at halftime, so we can make some adjustments if things aren’t going well. If they are going well, we focus on continuing that success and trying to improve even more. We spend a lot of time talking about who has the ball to start the second half and exactly what we’d like to continue exploiting on both ends of the floor. Then into the locker room to go over a few teaching points with the players. If I have to light a fire, I’ll light a fire, but most of the time our team’s really self motivated. They’re ready to go, so we just try to make a few quick adjustments that could help them after halftime.

The Post-Game Press Conference

The table sits empty, looming over the reporters slouched below. Microphones at attention, chairs pulled back and waiting for occupants, Double T's floating on a black background behind it. The spotlights white and hot. Cameras swivel as Curry enters with selected players in tow.  Reporters perk up. They’re on deadline. Need quotes. Answers. A few check their recorders. One darts forward to place his up among the microphones. Win or lose, this is part of it. Accountability. Questions about the outcome, the team, how individual players performed: “Do you think this showcased what is to come in the Big 12?” “Was one of your focuses on controlling their post play?” CURRY: After the game, I immediately go to talk to the team. Good or bad, happy or sad, I make some teaching points. Then we go immediately to media with two players. Depending on whether we have Chalk Talk after the game, which we have every weekend, we spend some time with fans after media. From that point on, thoughts turn immediately to the next opponent. Good or bad, the recovery time isn’t very long. You can’t really enjoy a win or can’t think too long about a loss, you have to turn the page and be ready to go against another opponent. Coach Kristy Curry hugs a Lady Raider after a win

The Rest of the Night

Outside, the parking lot has emptied. Reporters are banging away at laptops in the next room, racing deadline. The buzz has died. The arena is falling back to sleep. Curry’s work, however, isn’t done. Tough win? Hard loss? She’s sitting in a director’s chair facing Drew Dougherty, of Fox 34, to film another segment of Inside Lady Raider Basketball with Kristy Curry. Technicians fiddle over cables, the lights. Curry, ever genial, “Can I get some water? Thank you so much; I owe you a nickel.” Even if this was a night game, she’ll be awake for hours – well past midnight, into the deep hours of morning. CURRY: When I get home, I check on my little ones and give them a kiss goodnight. I lay out clothes for the next day – jackets, shoes – then I get comfortable and sit down to review game film. When do I go to bed? It depends. I might be up until 3:30 in the morning watching the film again – thinking about what we needed to do. It’s tough because there are high highs and low lows and very few in-betweens. It’s difficult to sleep when things don’t go well. And sometimes when things do go well you’re too excited. I always say that you either handle adversity or it handles you – know that you are blessed to have adversity just like you are blessed for having a lot of good in your life. So, I just try to be strong and get ready for the next opponent. What's your story? Contact Cory Chandler