Anyone who questions whether there has been a significant change within the culture of the University of Maine women’s basketball program need only go to a practice and see it first hand.
Tuesday evening, in Memorial Gymnasium, a half-dozen UMaine fans pulled up a courtside chair to watch as first-year coach Richard Barron and his staff put the Black Bears through their paces.
On the day he was introduced, Barron said fans would always been welcome to attend practice. His open-door policy is already paying dividends, as supporters of the program can get an inside look at the team on any given fall afternoon or evening.
It was all business on the floor Tuesday as the Bears went through a rigorous workout. Poor execution or repeated mistakes meant running sprints (down the length of the court and back, twice). Not meeting the time limit on the sprints meant lining up for another round.
Barron commands with an understated style. He communicates clearly and concisely, albeit quietly, what he wants to see.
If the drills aren’t run to his satisfaction, the low-performing group on the floor is out and the other group jumps in.
It is obvious Barron has a low tolerance for mistakes and he has set particularly stringent standards when it comes to the Bears’ need to take care of the basketball and avoid turnovers.
Clearly, he has watched film of last year’s team, which often struggled in that department.
Barron’s game plan for UMaine women’s basketball doesn’t seem to revolve around his potential for personal success or gratification. He knows that for the program to be successful, it will need not only moral support but some tangible contributions from fans and boosters.
He is striving to develop a close connection between the players and coaches and the fan base with the premise they’re all in it together.
Exhibit A: After Saturday’s practice, UMaine players split up in small groups and drove around Greater Bangor to distribute many packets of season tickets — in person.
Although it would be impractical to do it for everyone, the Bears nonetheless made a positive impression on those fans by taking the time to say hello and express their appreciation for being season-ticket holders.
Barron is setting new standards for UMaine women’s basketball and even with the first regular-season game 16 days away, it is apparent things have changed for the better.