Monday, April 25, 2011

Family matters by Tom Schulz

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Family matters

Values are at the core of Tricia Binford's success
by Tom Schulz
Many basketball coaches will say that the essence of their program is the team, but for Montana State University's Tricia Bader Binford, it's all about family.

"At our level, recruiting is a constant battle," said Binford, who is coming off her most successful season at MSU. "But what is unique about Montana State is that we can sell a great education, a safe community and being part of a family. And that is exactly what the parents of our potential student-athletes can embrace."

It's no secret that when a prospective student-athlete signs to play for Coach Binford's MSU women's basketball program, she instantly becomes a member of the Bobcat family. She is also expected to embrace all the components that make the unit run--whether in good or bad times.

Ashley Albert, who was slated to start as the Bobcat's point guard until she tore her ACL three days before the season started, said that the team's coaches play a pivotal role in the family atmosphere that is the key to the team's success.

"They (coaches) care about each of us individually as people, not just as players. In this long process of rehabbing from my ACL tear, the coaching staff has been there every step of the way," Albert said.

"It's so great knowing I have such a great support system in my coaches and teammates."

Lorey Bussey, the mother of MSU junior all-conference performer Katie Bussey, had no reservations to send her high-octane daughter to Bozeman from Alamosa, Colo.

"We worry, like all parents do, about our daughter being so far away all by herself," Bussey said. "But, when we visit MSU, we get a really content feeling that she is in a wonderful college community in a town full of decent people, and that she is a member of the caring family circle of MSU women's basketball. You can only imagine how comforting that is to us."

Twenty years ago, Jim and Lyn Bader were in Bussey's shoes sending their daughter away to college.

Binford was raised in Carbondale, Colo.,--a ski town 40 miles from Aspen. She received her core values from her father, Jim Bader, who was the superintendent of schools, and mother Lyn, a school counselor.

A self-described adrenaline junkie, Binford began her basketball journey as a four-year-old "tree jumper" hopping from trunk-to-trunk in the woods by her home. It was where she first learned to challenge herself and take risks.

She parlayed her proficiency in tree jumping into a successful career leaping from the second-story window of her parent's house, at the urging of an older brother.

"There was a certain thrill--pushing yourself to the limits," Binford said.

Binford also excelled at basketball. She was Colorado Player of the Year and a Street and Smith's High School All-American in that sport. Yet, she said she had never seen a women's collegiate basketball game until she got to Boise State, where she played college basketball. She was drawn to the Broncos by former BSU head coach June Daugherty, who is now at Washington State.

"I know my parents felt at ease with her, and she sold them on a smaller university in a safe and supportive atmosphere," Binford said. "To this day, my folks still stay in touch with her."

At Boise State, Binford was an all-conference point guard, leading the Broncos to a national ranking and its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament. For her efforts, she was named the 1996 Idaho NCAA Woman of the Year.

Binford left BSU with the school's career assists record and was second in program history in steals. In addition, she poured in 1,171 career points. Her tenure with the Broncos resulted with an induction into the Boise State Hall of Fame in 2001.

After college, Binford had double-knee surgery. Following rehab, she played for two years in Australia for the LaTrobe Demons. She then jumped to the WNBA, playing two years for the Utah Starzz, where she honed her skills working out with the likes of Utah Jazz Hall of Famer Karl Malone. She then joined the Cleveland Rockers after the team's starting point guard went down on a broken ankle.

"Cleveland's coaches had watched me warm up previously in a game with them, and liked my work ethic," Binford said.

Binford went on to play for four seasons with the Rockers, which culminated in an Eastern Division Championship. She also was an assistant coach at Boise State during the offseason, which is where she met her husband, Todd.

Heading into her sixth WNBA campaign, Binford had an opportunity to coach as an assistant at Utah State, which was in the process of resurrecting its women's basketball program following a 16-year hiatus. She and Todd decided it was time to hang up the sneakers and pursue her coaching career.

"I found great peace in our decision, and I felt like I had improved my game as best I could," Binford said.

Again, through connections at Boise State and her Colorado club team, Binford landed a spot on Reagan Pebley's staff at Utah State.

Two seasons later, Binford was named Montana State's 11th head women's basketball coach on April 13, 2005.

Character, integrity, and work ethic were the building blocks to the future, and Binford began to instill a sense of belonging to something much greater than just the team.

"Tricia has done an outstanding job with our women's basketball program," said MSU Athletics Director Peter Fields. "She is player-centered and has a caring attitude towards her student-athletes."

Binford intertwines her family, including children Justin and Brooklyn, with her student-athletes so everyone can be invested in the Bobcat program.

"My six-year-old son Justin might just be our best recruiter," Binford said. "He loves meeting our recruits, and he does a great job of entertaining them with his youthful exuberance."

Binford has steadily built the Bobcats into a league leader. The Bobcats have played in two Big Sky championship games in the last three years, were the top team in the league this winter, and would love nothing more than to bring a title to the Bobcat family.

"(Yet) At the end of the day our relationships are what matter," Binford said. "As in all families, our team works at it. Our family believes in hard work and knows the biggest reward is who we get to celebrate it with. We look out for each other, believe in each other and respect each other. Each player in our program was recruited to fit into our system, which boasts strong values and putting the team above anything else."

1 comment:

Marshall said...

Good article - great person!