A new era is officially underway in Madison as University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez introduced Bobbie Kelsey as the sixth women’s basketball head coach in school history at the Kohl Center Monday.
“This is a tremendous opportunity and I am very appreciative that Coach Alvarez has put his trust in me,” Kelsey said. “This program has excellent support, terrific resources and Madison is a wonderful community. It can be a great program and my intention and goal is to make it a great program.”
Kelsey brings a wealth of NCAA tournament experience to Wisconsin, both as a player and an assistant coach. She most recently helped lead the Stanford Cardinal women’s basketball team to four consecutive Final Four appearances while serving under the 2011 Russell Athletic/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Division I Coach of the Year, Tara VanDerveer.
As an assistant at Stanford, Kelsey helped the Cardinal earn a 137-14 (.907) overall record, and the honors she earned as a player from 1992-1996 are also impressive.
Kelsey lettered all four years after redshirting her freshman year, the same year Stanford won the NCAA championship. She made a total of three Final Four appearances as a player and captained her team during the 1995 and 1996 campaigns.
In trading one cardinal hue for another, Kelsey brings the type of pedigree the Wisconsin women’s basketball program has never seen before.
“[The team] shared with me their eagerness and their excitement about a new start, a new change and just a new opportunity to get this program back where it should be, where it can be and where it will be if I have anything to say about, which I think I do today,” Kelsey said.
The coaching search that ultimately led to UW hiring Kelsey began three weeks ago, when Lisa Stone was fired following a second-round loss in the WNIT. Stone led the Badgers for eight seasons and compiled a record of 128-119 (.518) with one trip to the NCAA tournament.
The lack of postseason success was reportedly the tipping point in what eventually led to Stone’s firing, and after being selected as the new leader of the program, Kelsey believes Wisconsin can build itself into a program in the mold of Stanford.
“This is a top program,” Kelsey said. “This is a top-class program, or I wouldn’t be here. I could just stay at Stanford and be satisfied with that. This program can be great, not just good, great. It can be on the national level, it can win national championships here.”
One of Kelsey’s main priorities now that she has the reigns of a major university program will be to surround herself with a coaching staff capable of turning the Badgers around
“I have some good people in mind that have won at the highest of levels, so I am just hoping they come on board,” Kelsey said.
As for the players Kelsey has inherited, they have been stuck in limbo since Stone’s dismissal and have tried to pass some of the time preparing for their new coach.
“I am excited, I am really excited,” sophomore forward Cassie Rochel said. “Our strength coach has been working our butts off the past week and today, kind of getting us prepared for anything, expecting whoever comes in, they are going to be tough coaches.”
The tough workouts figure to serve the players well considering Kelsey repeatedly referred to her expectations of maximum effort from her players at all times.
The emotional state of the team also appears to have settled after several weeks of anxiety.
“It was kind of nerve-racking with a little bit of stress, but then we were also anxious,” sophomore guard Morgan Paige said. “It was like that first week, everything kind of took a turn and we were off because we had just got done playing. We were all speculating, ‘What is going to happen now?’…The last three weeks have kind of been a blur, a whirlwind of all kinds of emotions, but I am happy that it is over … and we are just excited to move forward.”