How Linda Sayavongchanh got IU women’s basketball, and why IU wanted it

Linda Sayavongchan won’t go away for any job.

After spending seven years in Omaha recruiting expertise for the Bluejays and growing these athletes into high quality faculty basketball gamers, the subsequent step must be the best event. And for a lot of causes, Indiana ladies’s basketball checked these bins for it.

Hoosiers added Sayavongchanh to his crew in early June as assistant coach and recruitment coordinator. She was on the high of IU’s listing when Ashley Williams’ departure led to Fatah.

“The following place I used to be going to was, it needed to be particular (like Kriton),” mentioned Sayavongchan. “That is what drew me to IU. Individuals, they work laborious, they recruit the best children, and so they do issues the best method. And that is crucial to me.”

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On its method to IU

Sayavongchanh performed faculty basketball at Drake within the early to mid-2000s. Throughout that point, she determined she needed to pursue coaching. Though she majored in schooling, she realized throughout a sophomore instructing expertise that she didn’t wish to spend her profession in a classroom. So she turned a bulldog assistant pupil in her fifth 12 months of faculty.

She then took on an alumni assistant function at Division II Minnesota-Duluth, a choice that she mentioned helped her significantly alongside the best way.

“I am glad I went the D-II route as a result of I used to be mainly a full-time assistant, as a result of on the time, Minnesota-Duluth solely had one full-time assistant. So I used to be a normal assistant, however I used to be doing all of it,” Sayavongchanh mentioned. “From the recruitment to the educational encounters with the gamers, the teaching side of it, the participant growth, I did every part at that stage. So I look again and I feel that was an excellent transfer as a result of I received my foot within the door.”

She spent two years at Duluth, earlier than returning to her alma mater for 3 years. He then coached Sayavongchane in North Dakota in 2012-13. After that season, she went to St. Louis, a transfer that straight led to her being employed at IU.

enslaved by Billikens

Sayavongchanh had no prior contact with IU, however she labored with affiliate director Glenn Books for one season in St. Louis in 2014-15. They shaped a very good relationship that season, and stored in contact after the Bucks left for Bloomington.

She began watching Hoosiers to see how her good friend’s group was working. He – and ultimately your complete IU crew – did the identical for her in her different season at SLU earlier than going to Creighton in 2016, then adopted the Bluejays from afar.

“While you work with a very good particular person, you naturally develop a sure stage of respect for what they do,” Field mentioned. “I by no means misplaced contact together with her. I stayed in contact together with her for years. Whereas I did and since I’m right here, our whole employees intently adopted Creighton and adopted her. And so it was only a pure and natural factor.”

She was already accustomed to the Large Ten – from her upbringing in Iowa to later working in Nebraska. Describing herself as a basketball addict, she watched a whole lot of the ladies’s Ten Hoops. She even signed up for BTN Plus whereas she was nonetheless on Creighton.

There has by no means been a selected second in St. Louis that pulls Bux and Sayavongchane to one another. There was nothing particular that they shaped a connection about. It was constructed just by working alongside one another for lengthy hours that season, admiring one another’s work ethic and method, and the course of your complete season.

This St. Louis group was younger, and so they struggled with some early difficulties, however these Bleekens went on to win extra video games than they’d in over a decade. Field and Sayavongchanh linked by way of this success.

“We’re each very aggressive, we wish to win. We simply have the identical mentality, and I feel that is how we talk,” mentioned Sayavongchan. “We simply needed to work laborious and recruit actually good gifted children, and win. And I feel we did very well collectively on that side. Then that 12 months we received in contact and stored in contact after that.”

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By way of her fixed contact with Field after they each left St. Louis, Indiana’s whole employees turned acquainted with Sayavongchanh. She received to know Wright Wiersba, IU’s assistant coach, on the recruiting path, and noticed coach Terry Morin there occasionally as properly. She was often known as former IU assistant Janis Constantine, who spent 4 seasons in Bloomington earlier than taking the identical function in Alabama in 2020.

On the recruiting path

Though IU and Creighton’s precise gamers differ – together with the areas the colleges recruit from – Sayavongchanh felt her recruitment method aligns with what IU does.

Indiana typically discovered gamers in different high-profile applications that had been both missed or misplaced solely, whether or not it was native highschool expertise or worldwide recruiting. Hoosiers has freshmen from Israel (Yarden Garzon) and Finland (Henna Sandvik), together with Serbian sophomore Mona Zaric and Canadian junior Kiandra Brown already on the roster.

Sayavongchanh has by no means been internationally recruited, and he or she mentioned that may be her adjustment. However she and Field mentioned IU is searching for the identical qualities within the gamers that they pursued after Creighton.

“She’s been recruiting related varieties of children at Creighton,” Field mentioned. “Children who work laborious simply do not care concerning the social media hype, children who aren’t essentially attention-seeking.” “She understands the sorts of gamers it takes to win at a very excessive stage. And at Creighton, with the children she has, she’s clearly trying ahead to expertise. Hidden gems.”

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The fashionable employment panorama poses new and evolving challenges that weren’t current even a decade in the past. COVID-19 has affected the careers of highschool athletes in ways in which former recruits to the pandemic haven’t.

And with the identify, picture, and similarity to NCAA athletics, it simply turned a special recruiting world. Sayavongchanh is aware of this, however he additionally mentioned that issues all the time change in recruiting.

She is aware of adaptation is crucial to keep away from being left behind. So there isn’t a alternative however to embrace these challenges.

However on the identical time, Sayavongchanh mentioned the NIL doesn’t have an effect on her recruitment as a lot as some would possibly suppose.

“If NIL is extra vital to a pupil athlete than taking part in basketball, that is not the sort of child we wish right here,” mentioned Sayavongchan. “When you’re extra all in favour of NIL and that is what you are all in favour of, it is not about taking part in basketball at that time, to a sure diploma. Sorts of youngsters right here, they wish to play basketball, they wish to get higher, and so they respect laborious work. Zero stuff is not that vital. utmost for them.”

constructing connections

Sayavongchanh feels her greatest energy as a coach is relationships.

This was her first job upon her arrival in Bloomington. Entry to 2022 new college students, veteran gamers, and gamers IU is recruiting. She simply needed to start out these conversations and begin attending to know everybody. She pulled gamers apart to talk throughout rehearsals, engaged in script, and laid the foundations for robust relationships.

It isn’t all the time about basketball. Earlier than hitting Indiana, Sayavongchan texted Grace Berger about her fan base Justin Bieber.

Sayavongchan mentioned, “I like his music, however I am not a mad fan. I heard it is on one other stage.” “When you go by Cook dinner Corridor and Justin Bieber is taking part in, you already know Grace Berger is within the fitness center.”

In the case of the sport, Sayavongchanh will be upfront together with her gamers. Describing herself as aggressive and intense, she’s not shy about telling the reality to athletes.

She is pushed to win, and believes IU has the items to be very profitable this season and past. Sayavongchan thought the Hoosiers had the potential for a Large Ten championship final season, however struggled with the misfortune of accidents and different circumstances. She mentioned well being is essential to taking Hoosiers the subsequent step as a program.

That is how Creighton managed to realize success final season: the group’s key gamers averted harm. The Bluejays upset Iowa State in Iowa Metropolis to advance to their first ever Candy 16, and later defeated Iowa State to succeed in the primary of the Elite Eight.

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Sayavongchan would not have come to Indiana if she did not suppose the group might win straight away. And the Hoosiers would not have employed her in the event that they did not suppose she might assist them in doing so.

“She’s a winner,” Field mentioned. “We respect the winners right here. It is an actual huge cause why she’s right here.” “We did our homework completely when this job opened. We thought it was pretty much as good as any Energy 5 assistant on the market. That is why we went after it. We thought it will be actually good for us.”

Observe Herald Occasions sports activities reporter Seth Tow on Twitter @SethTow, or e-mail him at