WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Meetings, recruiting, and camps have filled the first month's schedule for new UNCW women's basketball coach Karen Barefoot. Spare vacation time in a new job is scarce, but that's just fine with her.
"You know, anybody that knows me, I'm Red Bull energy every single day. It's 24/7 energy. It's real," Barefoot said. "And I love this game. That orange ball has given me so many blessings, and I get a chance to teach life lessons through that orange ball."
Barefoot has made four stops on her head coaching journey before UNCW, the past two at the Division I level\ where she turned Elon from a five-win team to a 20-win program, and guided a tradition-rich Old Dominion program for six years.
"When I was 22 years old, I was just this young coach that was so excited, and I just didn't know a lot," Barefoot said, describing her growth as a coach. "And I think that throughout my years, I'm definitely smarter. I understand what it takes, and I'm definitely smarter with basketball and understanding things."
That development, in fact, was inspired by one of the legends of the sport – Pat Summit.
"I remember when I was 22 years old and wrote her a letter, and said, 'Hey, could you take a few minutes for a 22 year old who has no experience going into college, being a young head college coach? Could you give me direction?'" Barefoot remembered. "And she did. She called me back, and she talked to me. She said, 'Stay passionate. Do the right thing. It's a great game. Stay motivated. Make a difference.' That meant a lot to me when I was 22 years old. I have that letter still. I still have the scrapbook of her writing me that letter and even calling me back."
Barefoot faces the task of attempting to guide the Seahawks to their first-ever NCAA Tournament and revitalizing a once winning culture.
Reviving a program from irrelevance is never easy, but she's done it before, and Colonial Athletic Conference championships are a clear goal now.
"In the back of my mind, I have this great vision of just one day cutting the nets down and sharing it with this community and making everybody proud," Barefoot said. "So we're working hard. We're not gonna talk too much about it, but you're gonna see an improvement every single day. We're gonna be the team in March that nobody wants to play."