Linda Lappe remembers sitting in the bleachers at prep basketball games as a grade-schooler in Iowa and analyzing the game more than your average 10-year old. Offense, defense, she wanted to understand what was happening on the court and how the home team could get better.
When injury sidelined her as a sophomore at Colorado, Lappe found herself doing the same.
And by the time she was a junior at CU, she knew she wanted to make coaching -- specifically at her alma mater -- her career.
On Monday, CU introduced Lappe as its seventh women's basketball coach in program history at a morning press conference at the Coors Events Center.
"This is a dream come true," said Lappe, who spent the last three years as head coach at Metro State after stints as an assistant at Colorado State and Drake. "I knew when I left here I wanted to be back someday. And I'm just so thrilled to have that chance."
Lappe, who played at CU from 1998-2003, agreed to a five-year contract, the terms of which will be released once approved by CU's board of regents.
She replaces Kathy McConnell-Miller, who was fired after compiling a 65-88 record in five seasons with the Buffs.
CU officials were confident Monday that they'd found the person who could restore the tradition of success built over two decades by former coach Ceal Barry -- even if Lappe's resume is much shorter than most of her soon-to-be Big 12 peers.
At age 30, Lappe becomes the third-youngest women's head basketball coach at the Division-I level and the youngest at a major-conference school.
Athletic director Mike Bohn asserted during the coaching search that the school was seeking more a specific set of traits -- character, work ethic, drive, discipline, "voracious recruiter" -- than a certain list of achievements.
"She scored extremely high in every single one of those categories," Bohn said. "I think that all the characteristics she has are going to lend her to being successful."
Bohn said Lappe was the only finalist for the job.
"She emerged as our clear favorite and somebody we put all of our time and energy into as far as her visit," Bohn said. "But that doesn't mean we didn't vet out a lot of other coaches."
Lappe guided Division-II Metro State to a 50-36 record during her tenure, including a 37-20 mark in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play. Each of her teams finished second or third in the RMAC's East Division. The Roadrunners went 17-12 this season, falling in the conference semifinals to D-II national runner-up Fort Lewis.
At CU, Lappe was a two-time All-Big 12 honorable mention player who helped the Buffs to three NCAA tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight berth in 2002 and a Sweet 16 trip in 2003.
Barry, now an associate athletic director at CU, coached Lappe and led the search committee tasked with replacing McConnell-Miller.
Barry spoke with Lappe over the phone multiple times during the coaching search, and one thing always held true when she dialed her former pupil. Lappe was never at home.
"She was working every time," said Barry, who was 28 when she was hired at CU in 1983. "No one is going to outwork Linda. She's young. She's tireless. She always has been."
Lappe acknowledged that landing her dream job might have come about sooner than even she'd expected. And she admitted that her youth will provide some challenges.
That doesn't mean she'll be cutting herself any slack.
"To me there's no real time to get adjusted," Lappe said. "I'm not a very patient person. So the faster we can make this happen the better as far as I'm concerned."
Lappe met with current CU players Monday morning, and said that her first priority will be getting to know those athletes -- as well as the Buffs' incoming recruits -- and help them with offseason workouts.
"We have a rich, rich tradition here, and it's a great thing when you have tradition because you can always get it back," Lappe said. "The last couple of years have not necessarily been the best, but there are a great group of players here who really want to make changes. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help them reach those goals."