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By: CUBuffs.com
Linda Lappe, who played for Colorado from 1998-2003, was named the seventh head coach in team history Monday.
Brooks: Lappe Believes Time Is Right To Chase A Dream
Release: April 12, 2010
By: B.G. Brooks, Contributing Editor

BOULDER - As much to receive advice as to deliver good news, her first telephone call wound up in Morning Sun, Iowa, where Tom and Jean Lappe reared her and two siblings.

A stunned Linda Lappe had been made an offer, the "opportunity of a lifetime . . . a dream come true," she called it, and her first thought was bouncing the possibilities off her parents.

Tom Lappe's first words might not have been what the second of his three children wanted to hear. The timing wasn't perfect, he told her; maybe it would be with five more years of experience.

But he added, she recalled, "To be able to get your dream job, the job you've always had a passion for, you can't wait five years, you can't pass this up."

Not that she would have given the slightest thought to turning down the position of women's basketball coach at the University of Colorado - she was officially introduced Monday morning - but Lappe could vividly recall enough of her youth to remember that dream jobs don't always materialize.

"Lots of people want their dream job . . . my dad would love to have had his," she said. "He's worked his tail off in a job he doesn't necessarily love (first as a fabricator/welder, now as a plant supervisor).

"He's a typical blue collar worker, a guy that provided for his family. When we were younger, he'd come home dirty, drenched in sweat . . . he's in a supervisory role now, so he's not getting his hands dirty as much.

"But he still does whatever he can to help out; he's so unselfish, he picks up the slack for other workers in the plant. He's a true team player."

The gene was passed on. Tom Lappe loves woodworking almost as much as he loves hunting. He lives his dream at least once a year, venturing to the Steamboat Springs area to bow hunt elk. If a cable TV outdoors/hunting show beckoned him as a host, he'd answer in a heartbeat.

That might be a long shot, but then so might have been his only daughter, who turned 30 on Feb. 26, being given the reins of a moribund basketball program that competes in the nation's most unforgiving conference.

"I know there are people out there who don't think I can do it, who believe I'm too young for this, and I totally understand that," said Lappe, who spent the past three seasons as the head coach at Metro State College of Denver. "But there are a lot more who believe in me. Really, the support already has been unbelievable.

"And I know I can do it. I think I was preparing for this even before I was coaching. It's an opportunity to coach where I graduated, to work on the same court where I played, to compete in the Big 12 Conference.

"To be in coaching, to be back in Boulder, to live there, to walk around a campus I love . . . It's a chance to have an impact on kids, on young women. Yeah, I know it's a tough job, a challenging job, but I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Lappe's world just expanded. At Metro State, her staff meetings usually included three people - herself, one full-time assistant and one part timer (Tyler Cline, J.J. Imbeaux). Her staff size at CU - counting operations/office personnel, trainers, strength and conditioning coaches and on-court assistants - will triple.

She hopes to have her assistant coaches named by mid-May at the latest. Among her first priorities this week will be meeting with returning players, getting acquainted, laying her ground rules, and evaluating the spring recruiting (the signing period begins Wednesday) initiated by the former staff.

The Buffs signed three prospects - forward Shae Kelley, of Denver East, and twin guards Ashley and Brittany Wilson, of Long Beach, Calif. - during the November signing period. Help still is needed in the front court, but the availability of scholarships could depend on possible attrition.

"It's short notice, but the recruiting period lasts a month and know I'm going to have to hit the ground running," she said. "Hopefully, they (former staff) have been selling the school and CU in general (to prospects)."

CU finished 13-17 overall and 3-13 in the Big 12 last season. Lappe believes the team she is inheriting "overall has some talent. I look forward to working with them in the off-season and seeing what their skill sets are, what I can do to help them in whatever way."

The Buffs haven't had a winning conference record since 2003-04, Barry's next-to-last season. Lappe knows the challenges that await her in the Big 12.

"It's the best conference in the nation - the best coaches, the best players, just an overall tough conference," she said. "We're going into arenas that will be packed. But it'll be great to be at a place like Iowa State playing in front of 13,000 people.

"I'm not going to be intimidated. I know what it's like. I've been there."

Being a head coach not so far removed from the age of her players doesn't present problems, said Lappe: "My first year at Drake, it was a little awkward. But I got enough experience there so it wasn't a problem later.

"If you look at it from the other way, sometimes you relate better because you're younger. I've never had an issue with a player being disrespectful. I respect them; that's the way I approach them and I expect the same."

Lappe should get a boost in several areas from the presence of Ceal Barry, her former coach from 1998-2003 who is now an associate athletic director/student services and senior women's administrator. Athletic Director Mike Bohn said Barry will retain those duties, but also now will oversee the women's basketball program.

"Ceal obviously knows the lay of the land (she coached at CU for 22 seasons and won 427 games) and will be able to answer simple questions - like where do I pick up my keys, where to take recruits . . . ," Lappe said. "She'll also be able to answer rebuilding questions, give me advice on management style."

Barry has closely followed Lappe's coaching career (three seasons as an assistant at Drake, one at Colorado State, three at Metro State) and says her pupil "runs a very disciplined program. Her teams play hard and smart and don't turn the ball over. They play like they're coached; Linda is an up-and-comer."

But Lappe was quick to point out that her program and teams at CU also will be fashioned from experiences other than those gleaned from her five years playing for Barry. Learning under Drake coach Amy Stephens left its mark: "Her teams had that hard-nosed, aggressive style and played very hard.

"It hasn't been just coach Barry that influenced me. I've had a chance to figure out what works for me, and I'll still do that. I'm going to be myself - not Ceal Barry. I hope to take what I want to take from her style and make some adjustments.

"I admire her, but we don't necessarily have the same philosophies. She made this program, she contributed a ton. But you're not going to see coach Barry's CU team, you're going to see coach Lappe's."

She's latched onto a dream she couldn't possibly have let pass.

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

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