Coach Cheryl Burnett of the University of Michigan has been coaching in the collegiate ranks for more than twenty years, beginning as a graduate assistant coach at Illinois in the 1981-1982 season. Coach Burnett, who holds a B.S. in education from Kansas and a Master's degree from Illinois in athletic administration, was highly successful during her years as the head coach at Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, MO, leading the program to two Final Four appearances during her 15-year tenure.
Coach Burnett is in her second year at Ann Arbor, leading the Wolverines to a 5-18 mark in the 2004-2005 season as of Tuesday evening. She does have a history of creating and sustaining winning programs, however, as her .701 winning percentage prior to the 2002-2003 season ranked 35th in NCAA history. For more information about Coach Burnett, check out her page on the official Michigan athletics Web site:
1) How did you become interested in coaching? First and foremost for the love of the game. My high school coach, Jim Enlow, was a great role model for me.
2) Which coach (from any sport, any era) do you most admire and why? Roy Williams. I love the Dean Smith/North Carolina system of defensive pressure and then Coach Williams moved on to my alma mater, Kansas, where I was able to attend practices and really fell in love with that style. As a young coach at SMS, Charlie Spoonhour was a great influence on me as well.
3) What is the best part about the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor, Michigan, community? Excellence, Tradition and Integrity.
4) What words do you want to come to mind when people think of Michigan's women's basketball program? Work ethic. Right now I want people to recognize our work ethic for playing a specific style of basketball. In the future I would like the words I just associated with our University to apply to our program as well.
5) What one coaching cliche would you ban from ever being uttered again? I really like coaching cliches, so I wouldn't. My favorite is "Repetition penetrates even the dullest minds," which I picked up from an old Purdue coach, Dr. Ruth Jones.
6) What is good right now in the world of collegiate women's basketball? I go back to the purity of the game. We play the game under the rim like coach Wooden would prefer and it's a purist sport. I also think women's basketball players are still grounded enough to be great role models.
7) What rule would you erase from the books? I would re-instate the 10-second backcourt rule and I prefer a tighter 5-second count on the ball, but then again, I am a defensive-oriented coach.
8) True or False: It is more difficult to sustain a program's excellence than to achieve it initially. At SMS it is true because the pressure of having to finish first every season just to make the tournament was excrutiating. At Michigan, I can't answer that for a couple years.
9) What traits or attributes do you look for when recruiting high school or junior college players? To put it simply, overachievers. I want our players to overachieve on the court as players, in practice in terms of work ethic, in the classroom and socially in terms of being role models and impacting other people's lives.
10) Can you describe how it feels when you coach against a former colleague or a very good friend? Coaching against somebody who played for me or I played for is really difficult. Coaching against a colleague I really respect, such as Lisa Bluder from Iowa, I enjoy the challenge. We had a great rivarly between SMS and Drake and it was a respectful rivalry from the coaches, players and fans. It's what makes college athletics so wonderful.
11) How would you describe Purdue's Kristy Curry, in one sentence? The first time I faced Kristy Curry on the floor was at the Final Four in 2001 and I was so impressed with her because she was that unique combination of extremely successful professionally and a genuinely nice person.
Special thanks to Rich Marion for making this Q&A possible.