'I believe in this place': Allison Pohlman introduced as Drake women's basketball head coach
Drake announced Allison Pohlman as its new women's basketball head coach April 18. But the official passing of the torch — or bracelet, actually — happened Monday.
During her speech at Pohlman's introduction as head coach, Suzie Glazer Burt, the Des Moines philanthropist who donated $5 million to Drake's women's basketball program in 2019 and for whom the program's head coaching position is named, said she was in Norman, Oklahoma, recently.
While there, she met with former Drake head coach Jennie Baranczyk, who left the Bulldogs to become Oklahoma's head coach on April 10.
Glazer gave Baranczyk a blue sapphire bracelet years ago to signify her role as the Bulldogs' head coach.
In Norman, Baranczyk returned the bracelet to Glazer. She wanted Pohlman to have it.
"Because she loved you, she loved Drake University and she wants you to wear this with pride, as well as I do," Glazer told Pohlman in front of the social distanced crowd inside the Shivers Practice Facility.
When it was her turn to speak, Pohlman said she looks forward to continuing the tradition of excellence she helped foster for nine seasons with Baranczyk.
"I have ridiculously high standards and expectations for this team. But I also have them for myself," Pohlman said. "I believe in this place. I love our program. I love our team. I am bleeding blue from head to toe. You can’t even imagine."
Pohlman's affection for Drake was as big a factor in her hire as her coaching pedigree and vision for the program. Bulldogs athletic director Brian Hardin has always been open and vocal about how he looks for candidates who want to be the head coach at Drake University, not just a head coach somewhere.
That was one of the key reasons he hired longtime Creighton assistant coach Darian DeVries to lead the men's basketball program three years ago, and it was one of the reasons he picked Pohlman this time around.
"When she walked in, she was the head coach at Drake," Hardin said of his interview with Pohlman, who was an assistant coach for seven years at her alma mater, Northern Iowa, before moving to Drake 14 years ago. "She’s had opportunities to interview at other places. She’s had opportunities to go elsewhere, but she stayed here."
In terms of what Drake basketball will look like under her leadership, Pohlman said she has three main goals: to be highly relational, highly accountable and highly productive.
Highly relational, she said, boils down to relationships. She wants her players and coaches to really mean it when they say, "We are family."
Highly accountable, she said, relates to her demanding a lot from her players but also demanding a lot from herself, as well as being accountable to the fans by consistently putting out a successful, fun-to-watch product at the Knapp Center.
And highly productive, Pohlman said, means that Drake is going to score. A lot.
"We’re going to continue with that up-tempo style," Pohlman said. "We’re going to continue to score buckets in bunches."
Hardin spoke recently with Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth to check on a reference for another hire in Drake's athletic department. While he had Roth on the phone, Hardin asked him about Gonzaga's hiring practices.
Specifically: What works well for you in finding the best candidates?
"He succinctly said they look for the best person first, and then they’ll look at the coaching ability second," Hardin said. "With Allison, I know that we have an incredible person who fits the mission of our institution. With Allison, I know we have someone who has been an outstanding member of our coaching staff for a number of years and will make a terrific head coach.
"She has the energy, passion and the vision to lead our women's basketball program and take it to new, greater heights."
Matthew Bain covers recruiting and pretty much anything else under the sports sun for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.