FTS Q&A: Coach Richard Barron

University of Maine women’s basketball coach Richard Barron is quickly becoming a transformational figure within Black Bear Nation.  Since inheriting the struggling program from Cindy Blodgett in 2011, Coach Barron has slowly and steadily been building a foundation within the locker room that is focused on teamwork, values, and success.  That foundation is now being built into something more, as the lady Black Bears are coming off a winning 2013-14 season and have a tremendous recruiting class coming in next year. 

After a long, grueling, emotional season that saw Maine win its first round game in the Women’s Basketball Invitational, Coach Barron sat down with Fill The Steins to look back on his first three years at Maine, reflect on the recently-completed campaign, and look ahead to what promises to be the most exciting, highly anticipated season of his tenure in Orono.

In addition, Coach Barron will be joining us THIS SUNDAY APRIL 13 AT 7PM for the Fill The Steins Podcast.  Be sure you join us, too!  In the meantime, please welcome Coach Barron to Fill The Steins!

FTS: As a child of the south, what ever possessed you to take a job in cold, snowy Maine? 
RB: First, it was the encouragement from Ian McCaw, AD at Baylor, who worked at Maine.  He thought it was a good fit.  Secondly, I wanted to be somewhere where women’s basketball was relevant.  Finally, during my visit to campus and the Bangor area, I really liked the people.  We have great fans.
FTS: We’d imagine it was difficult to replace a Maine basketball legend like Cindy Blodgett as head coach. Was that even an issue for you and how did you deal with it? 
RB: I have great respect for Cindy.  She is a legend here in Maine.  The most difficult thing was trying to win over those supporters who were loyal to Cindy.  It was important to let them know that supporting Cindy and continuing to support the young women in our program weren’t mutually exclusive.
FTS: You’ve been here just about three years now. What are your impressions of Maine…both the university and the state as a whole? How have your kids and your wife adjusted to living in Maine?
RB: Maine is a state of hard working people who have strong values, a strong sense of fairness and community, and who love basketball.  The University is a top notch research university, serving the community and state in the tradition of other great land-grant universities, and its best attribute is its people:  faculty, staff, students and alumni.  UMaine has great traditions and pride.  Our family has loved our time here.  Maybe it is because of their Canadian DNA.
FTS: Now that you’ve had a little bit of time to reflect on the 2013-2014 season, what do you think your lasting memories of the season and this particular team will be? 
RB: The obvious answer is the overall improvement but the start of new traditions and accomplishments (Cross Center debut, electric slide, senior night, etc.) stand out, but so do practices, fun experiences on road trips, and those ah-ha moments when players “get it.”
FTS: This is the second time you’ve been at the helm of a “major turnaround” season at a women’s basketball program, with the other instance being at Princeton. What is the formula for going from single-digit wins to competitiveness and respectability in a single season? 
RB: You’re leaving out SEWANEE! (Sorry, Coach…our bad.)  I don’t know that there is a formula.  If there was, we wouldn’t need coaches.  There are principles and values though.  Establishing those standards and expectations is key.  Then you surround yourself with people who are committed to and capable of meeting those expectations.
FTS: Speaking of surrounding yourself with good people, we’re big fans of Amy Vachon here at Fill The Steins. What has her presence on the coaching staff meant to the team and the program as a whole? 
RB: She is vital to our success.  Not only because of her ties to the state of Maine basketball, UMaine’s women’s basketball legacy and her ability to connect with Mainers, but because she is very good at her job.  She is smart, industrious, personable and loyal.  Amy is one of the best coaches I have ever worked with.
FTS: Last season’s bus accident was horrible, horrible event. How did you handle that and how did you lead a group of young women through such a freak, unexpected occurrence? 
RB: One day at a time.  You listen.  You lean on the professionals like Dean Dana around you.  You support.
FTS: You’re known as an outstanding recruiter and are credited, at least in part, with getting Brittney Griner to commit to Baylor when you were an assistant there. Other than her size, what was it about her that made you know she was going to be such an elite player? 
RB: She could dunk as a sophomore.  It wasn’t a hard eval.
FTS: Getting back to recruiting, your program got a letter of intent from Parise Rossignol of Van Buren, which is a legendary name in the world of basketball in the state of Maine. What excites you most about Rossignol and the rest of the incoming recruiting class? 
RB: Parise can flat out shoot, especially off the dribble. Janessa is a versatile forward who adds needed size and athleticism.  Kirsten is a banger who passes well, rebounds, and can score in the post.  But I am most excited that these recruits can come in and learn from an established team with and established culture.  It will be so much easier for them than our current sophomores.
FTS: Continuing to look ahead to the 14-15 season, we said on a recent podcast that it’s a fair expectation for next year’s team to compete for a conference championship. What are your expectations for the team? 
RB: The same.  I want us to win the league the next two years.  I don’t know that we will be anyone’s favorite but we are my favorite.
FTS: After one season in the Cross Insurance Center, what are your impressions of the facility, both on and off the court?
RB: It is great for us and for the entire area.  It is a beautiful facility and a fun and exciting place to play and recruit to.
FTS: Fill The Steins thinks the City of Bangor and University of Maine should be actively pursuing the America East men’s and women’s tournament. Your thoughts on hosting the conference tournament on your home court? 
RB: Let’s make it happen.  Start a Twitter campaign!
FTS: We can do that!  In closing, what are you filling your stein with these days?
RB: Diet Dew, Iced Coffee Black and the occasional IPA.
We thank Coach Barron for his time and look forward to him joining us THIS SUNDAY on the Fill The Steins Podcast.  We hope you join us on Sunday at 7pm sharp, too!

Photo courtesy: University of Maine Athletic Department

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About "Fill The Steins": A multimedia platform devoted to providing an informative, entertaining forum that celebrates "the college of our hearts always" and its graduates' contributions to academics, athletics, and popular culture, as created by alumni and students, for alumni and students. FTS is not affiliated with the University of Maine or UMaine System and does not represent the views or opinions of the university in any way, shape, or form.
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