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  1. #1
    TLL.com Womens Moderator Lobo2x53's Avatar
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    TLL Interview with Symone Denham

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    Joe: Welcome to New Mexico a year late. For someone who seems to have spent most of her life in Michigan and Ohio, this has to be a bit of a change.

    Symone: Yes, itís been an adjustment. The town is big enough, but not too big. It is different from home completely. But Iíve adjusted to it. Itís an easy place to live.

    Joe: We spent nine years in Dayton before coming out here. Itís not the same size, but itís very, very different.

    Symone: The weather was the biggest adjustment for me. Iím used to getting a real dose of all four seasons. The coldest day has been maybe 60 degrees; thatís completely different for me.

    Joe: Along with the concept of rain and how people respond the rain.

    Symone: Yeah.

    Joe: What made you pick up a basketball and what made you good at it?

    Symone: As a kid, like most kids, at the local rec center you play a little of every sport. Basketball was the one I was the best at so I stuck with it. No real rhyme or reason. My Mom was a track athlete and my Dad played a little bit in high school, but he wasnít any sort of big time athlete.

    Joe: One change from when I grew up to now, it seems more and more kids are forced to specialize earlier and earlier. At what point did you realize that was the right sport for you?

    Symone: When it got to the point that I was playing organized basketball. Obviously at the Rec Center itís pick-up games. You go in and play with whomever: guys, girls, any age. I started playing AAU in my sixth grade year going into middle school. Thatís when it became more of an emphasis for me and thatís when it got more organized for me.

    Joe: When I looked at your record out at Wright State, it jumped out that you started essentially every game as a junior and a senior. You look at the stats, they werenít overwhelming. You lead the team in minutes and assists, you were team captain as a senior. Thatís an awful lot of respect as a player for someone who didnít have the big numbers. What kind of player were you?

    Symone: The best way for me to describe myself would be a team-player. I didnít care about any of those stats. I didnít care about scoring the most points, but what I did care about was taking care of my teammates and making sure that at all times we were putting ourselves in the best position to win academically and athletically. I enjoyed that part of it more than any amount of basketball I could play. It just so happened that I could do a little bit of everything and I would contribute to my team however I could.

    Joe: After graduation, you spent a year coaching at Lourdes University. What interested you in coaching?

    Symone: I did my undergrad in finance and economics so I was really, really business oriented at that point. I felt that I wanted to give the real world a shot. I got my first job in sales in Dayton. I did that for about six or seven months. I enjoyed it, but I realized how much I valued my education and I missed basketball. So it was a perfect opportunity for me: I was able to get my Masterís and get my first real taste of basketball on the other side. It just kind of happened.

    Joe: You go over to ďthe other sideĒ of basketball which is obviously a totally different from playing. How did being the kind of player you were help or hinder when you became a coach?

    Symone: I think it helped. More than anything what helped was the amount of responsibility that I had as a player. As a senior, and even as a junior, I was exposed to a lot of different things because I did a lot of different things on the court. That made it easier as a coach. The toughest part was probably the age difference because there was only a year or two between myself and the players. That did not take too long to adjust to. They respected me as a coach and in time it took care of itself.

    Joe: You are the youngest of the Lobo coaches, and played the most recently. If they had a coachís one-on-one tournament here, how badly do you think you would beat the rest of them?

    Symone: [Laughs.] They are the athletes! But I think I can hold my own.

    Joe: When you decided to leave the Mid-West, why was New Mexico the right place to come?

    Symone: Well obviously playing for Mike and Val, I had a pretty good relationship with the two of them for five or six years. I thought it was a perfect opportunity for me to really get my foot back into Division I. Obviously Lourdes being NAIA, is a completely different set-up in all realms. Coming here was a perfect opportunity to work for a guy that I ultimately value a lot athletically. Itís a big university, Division I, and getting my foot back in the door.

    Joe: Turning that around, when Erin left there was a vacancy here; what made you the right person for this job?

    Symone: Knowing Mike and Val and knowing his system, how he likes things run. My personal opinion is that itís not every day that you have that long of a relationship with someone on your staff. I just thought it made sense. I know the kind of kids that he likes as players; I know the kind of kids that he likes as people and what he doesnít. It will be fairly simple in that way. Just doing a lot of recruiting with kids like me when I was 18.

    Joe: Speaking of recruiting, that starts up again pretty soon. Do you have a particular part of the country that you will be focusing on?

    Symone: All of us are going to be all over the place. So, no particular part of the country, no.

    Joe: What do you look for when you go out to see somebody for the first time? What catches your interest as ďThis is a player to follow!Ē?

    Symone: I will always care more about how they are as a person before any amount of athletic ability. I want to see if they are a good teammate. Are they somebody who will pick up their teammates when they are down? Do they keep that same energy when they are going on good runs and when they are struggling? Are they helping their teammates? Do they listen? Are they coachable?

    Then in terms of their athletic ability, Mike likes two-way players and big guards. He likes athletic post players who can do a little bit of everything, rim-runners. We need ball players!

    Joe: In the practices, Bill clearly works with the posts primarily. Do you have something that you are starting out focusing on in practices?

    Symone: Right now I am filling in where needed. And doing a little bit of everything. Val is really, really good with our guards. She has been doing this for a long time. We have more guards so Iím usually helping her with them. Iím in no particular spot, just everywhere.

    Joe: Looking at yourself and your growth as a coach, what do you most want to work on and improve on this year?

    Symone: Obviously one of the biggest things is the tons of NCAA rules. I would like to get proficient in that more than anything so Iím able to do the checks and balances and make sure that we are doing things the right way around here.

    Besides that, finding the most efficient ways to make our team better. Keep everybody happy--thatís the solution to a lot of things. Doing whatever it will take to get the most out of our student athletes. Ultimately, we want to win.

    Joe: Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?

    Symone: Thatís a good question. I donít know. At this point, Iím just taking things one day at a time learning as I go. Inquiring about things I donít know. I couldnít tell you where I will be in five years. I wouldnít have expected me to be here five years ago, so I donít know. Weíll see when I get there.

    Joe: Okay, open microphone time. What would you like to say to the thousands of people who will read this?

    Symone: Thousands of people?

    Joe: Well maybe dozens of people.

    Symone: Maybe a handful.

    Joe: 100 to 200 is typical.

    Symone: Decent number. It will be an exciting year. It will be fun. It will be different from the last two years in a big way. Our team looks strong right now, but there are a lot of things that still need to be worked on. We have the potential to be really, really good this year and Iím excited. I hope everybody else is excited too. Hopefully, we can get some really big numbers at some games this year.

    Joe: Well we got the crowd going in the right direction last year. Hopefully, weíll get some more this year.

    Symone: Yeah, that would be awesome. If we keep winning, that takes care of itself.

    Joe: Winning and getting the right kind of people. There is an emotional connection with the womenís team here that unlike anything Iíve seen anywhere else. I think that adds a lot to the people coming to the games.

    Thank you very much for taking the time. I know that even without games, this is not a slow part of the year.

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    Alpha Lobo Bachtold's Avatar
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    I was concerned about our loss when Erin left. Thanks! Symone for relieving me of that worry.

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