Karen Barefoot provided a glimpse into her approach toward basketball and life the day she was introduced as Old Dominion's women's coach.
"I'm not going to be perfect," she said to a room full of folks at ODU's Constant Center last June, "but I'm never going to give you less than my best."
Barefoot has lived that mantra from her days as an indomitable whirlwind of a point guard in the Peninsula District, through a record-setting college career at Christopher Newport, three college head coaching positions, to a return home to a place that she calls a dream destination.
Barefoot took over for icon Wendy Larry after the longtime coach's publicly contentious departure. Her aim wasn't to replace one of the most respected coaches in women's basketball and a giant figure within the ODU community.
Rather, Barefoot wants to restore the legacy that Larry, and Marianne Stanley before her, began. She aims to build relationships with players and fans, and to win championships.
She inherited a rebuilding job at Old Dominion, a shadow of the program that won national championships in the 1980s and was an annual NCAA tournament presence through the first decade of the 21st century.
Though this season's record is disappointing, progress is evident. The Lady Monarchs won three games against CAA teams to which they lost the first meeting. After losing by 16 at George Mason in early December, they defeated the Patriots seven weeks later.
ODU captured two-point road wins at Hofstra and UNC Wilmington recently after enduring 20-point home losses to both in January. The Lady Monarchs were competitive in a loss to nationally-ranked Delaware and All-American Elena Delle Donne, giving the players encouragement that they could compete against the league's best teams.
Barefoot demonstrated that same determination throughout her playing and coaching careers. At CNU, she was the first player in college history — any division, man or woman — to amass 2,000 points and 1,000 assists.
At age 22, she helped start a program where none had existed, eventually winning an NSCAA national championship at the Apprentice School. She coached Lenoir-Rhyne to its first conference title and its first NCAA Division II tournament berth.
Barefoot assisted Larry, from 2005-08, during the Lady Monarchs' last dominant period in the CAA. She then engineered a 15-game turnaround in three seasons as head coach at Elon, taking the Phoenix from five wins to 20 her final year.
She came to Old Dominion believing that the Lady Monarchs again can be champions. What's required is passion and commitment, starting with the head coach. With Barefoot, that's a given.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun