The Toledo Rockets were 25-9 last season and won the MAC Tournament. They return a large part of the team and expectations are high. Head coach Tricia Cullop was kind enough to answer a few questions as she prepares for her 10th season at the helm of the Rockets.
1. Last season going into the MAC tournament, you weren't really expected to win. The team capped a magical run with a MAC Tournament Championship and a trip out West to the NCAA Tournament. This season you are likely the favorite in a conference loaded with great teams. Does being the front runner change your approach to motivating the team? Last season we were disappointed as we thought we had the talent to make a great run in the regular season, but unfortunately injuries plagued us in the stat of MAC play. Our only two losses in the non-conference were UCLA and Notre Dame. I do believe Central Michigan will be favored to win the league this year, but I think there will be some teams who can challenge them and we hope to be one of them. Because we won the MAC tournament and return four starters, I don’t think we will be an underdog this year. Our goal is to be a better team than last year. We do have more depth than we had a year ago, but we still have a lot to learn.
2. In a Toledo Blade article from 2013, (link to story here) you mentioned the Ohio State job was your first interview in 5 years, and talked about what a great place Toledo is to coach. You're still here. What are some of your favorite aspects about the job? I love working at Toledo because the people are second to none. We have incredible support from the top down. From Dr. Gaber (President) and Mike O’Brien (AD) to the fans who have helped us rank top 30 in the country in attendance in each of the last six seasons. In addition to our amazing support, we can also sell a superb education, outstanding facilities and a winning tradition. Women’s basketball is not an afterthought here. People care about it, support it and are excited about it and that’s what makes it fun and enjoyable to work here.
3. You have quite a few international players on the roster. Was that by design or just how things worked out? Is there any extra coaching that you have to do to help them fit in on the court? We do have six countries represented on our roster, but it was not by design. We start out by circling a six hour radius around our campus and recruit that area extremely hard. We want players to are solid students, possess a great attitude and can help us win our league. We also keep a pulse on what players might be available overseas. If we ever feel like the best fit is an international player, we will make that choice. It also helps to have an Associate Head Coach who played a number of years professionally overseas. We have had great success with Naama Shafir, Inma Zanoguera and Janice Monakana in the past. All three signed with professional teams after graduation. One thing I like about having a very diverse team is that our team is very prepared to head out in the world after graduation and work with anyone. They can appreciate differences and respect various cultures, backgrounds and religions. We do make it an emphasis to do extra team building so that our players develop strong bonds. I’ve always felt a team that truly cares about one another will achieve more. Despite the different backgrounds, the language of basketball is pretty universal. Most of our players have a good understanding of how the game is played and very coachable. What I’ve found with our international players is that they are extremely appreciative of this opportunity and want to make the most of it.
Thanks coach Cullop and good luck on the season!
The Toledo Rockets host the Saint Francis Red Flash tonight at 7pm in Savage Arena.