BOULDER - After coaching in the Olympics and in a dozen NCAA Basketball Tournaments (aka: The Big Dance), Ceal Barry is well-acquainted with the spotlight . . . but the dance floor?
Don't get her started.
Then again, let's do; it might be entertaining.
That's exactly how Barry, Colorado's legendary women's hoops coach turned administrator, is viewing an upcoming whirl on a very different hardwood - a dance floor at the Boulder Theater for Dancing With The Boulder Stars on Oct. 15.
The program features eight couples, half of those being local celebrities matched with either a professional dancer or one who knows his/her way around a ballroom without crunching too many toes.
CU will be well represented; in addition to Barry, now an associate athletic director/academics/student services, former men's basketball player David Kuosman (1986-89) is in the lineup. Kuosman now is a partner with Faegre & Benson, a Denver law firm.
Technically, the event can be tagged competitive. But it has a bigger purpose than crowning a couple. Audience members cast votes ($1 per vote) for their favorites, with proceeds benefitting the YWCA of Boulder County. (Ticket info: 303-786-7030 or bouldertheater.com)
"It's not so much a competition as a wonderful occasion," said Mike Durall, a freelance author/dancer who is paired with Barry.
Picture this: Barry doing the tango in a slinky, blazing red dress, replete with large flowers, even larger ruffles, and the outfit offset by a headpiece - the latter being an accessory which she vows "is not going to happen."
"Somebody suggested I dye my hair black or wear a long wig and pull it back and tie it into a knot," Barry said, offering the correct notion that she's really gotten into this.
You'll have to show up to see what happens with the headpiece or her hair, but Barry has not only gone along with the rest of the routine, she's - did you expect anything else? - immersed herself in it.
"It was one of those things where you go, 'If I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it full-tilt.' I'll be into it and do it the right way," she said.
The invitation to get involved came from a friend, Alice Swanson, who formerly worked for the Boulder Chamber of Commerce and now teaches a sales and marketing class at CU's Leeds School of Business.
Early this summer, Swanson, the dancing event's coordinator, approached Barry with the "I need a favor" line, which couldn't have been used unless they were good pals.
What's more, noted Barry, Swanson is "a fellow Kentuckian," which undoubtedly increased the odds of the favor being granted. Plus, Swanson promised, "You'll have a lot of fun and it's for a good cause."
"So, she got me on the good cause," Barry said. "I figured I could make a fool of myself for about three minutes for a good cause."
Barry was happy to get involved even though ballroom dancing was about as foreign to her as snake charming.
"I've never, ever taken any formal (dancing) training - not even ballet when I was five years old," Barry recalled. "But Alice said, 'Well, you're an athlete.' I said, 'No, Alice, I'm a coach.'
"It's funny, but it's kind of like athletics in the sense that I want to master the footwork. I want to get that down."
Helping her master the footwork (and all things tango) is Durall, who moved to Boulder from Austin, Texas, several years ago and said he took to dancing "like a duck to water."
The choreographer of their routine, Durall knew just a bit more about Barry's basketball background than Barry knew about the tango.
But after weeks of practice, he critiqued her as being "extremely good and a terrific sport . . . She's extraordinarily engaging, with a wonderful smile."
A week before the competition, Durall and Barry, who retired in 2005 as CU's most successful women's basketball coach, had practiced together for nine one-hour sessions, mostly in Carlson Gymnasium on campus.
They had three choices of dance - the fox trot, the Viennese waltz or the tango - and the latter was chosen, according to Barry, because "it was challenging, but not too challenging.
"I think I wanted to do something that was fun, and I think one was a little slow and the other I didn't think I could do. It just seemed to be a good fit; I thought I could do it without tearing my ACL.
"I've had to be very coachable. So the shoe's on the other foot now."
Barry knows a little about being coachable. Her teams posted 13 20-win seasons and won 427 games during her 22 seasons as the CU women's coach (510-284 overall career record).
She's worked in the NCAA Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, as well as serving on seven occasions with USA Basketball.
"Mike's worried about me freezing on 'game night,'" Barry said, chuckling. "I go, 'Mike, I'll be fine.' I'm not worried about that."
Truth be told, Durall isn't that worried either: "She's done a lot scarier things than this . . . hopefully, we'll be at the top of our game - and we will be. The audience is going to enjoy it."
But for Barry in the ballroom, it might be "one and done." If she's relished the opportunity to do a favor for a fellow Kentuckian, she concedes she might not strap on her slippers again anytime soon.
"I will hang up my dancing shoes," she said. "Maybe I'll spray 'em gold and put 'em up next to my 500-win game ball . . . but I'll probably miss it; it's been a lot of fun."