For the first time in his tenure as the head coach of the University of Colorado men's basketball team, Tad Boyle often finds himself swallowing his whistle.
Now entering his eighth season in charge of the Buffaloes, Boyle has never been shy about interrupting practice when things go awry, whether it's to deliver a subtle coaching point or a more vehement correction.
This year, though, the Buffs are young. Younger than any team Boyle has overseen during his time in Boulder. And sometimes, as he explained Wednesday during the program's annual media day at the Coors Events Center, one of the concessions of youth is that Boyle often is allowing his youngsters to play through their mistakes more frequently than did with some of his more experienced teams in the past.
In some ways, it is uncharted territory for the veteran coach. His nature is to correct every single miscue that occurs during practice. Yet with a total of nine players on the roster who haven't played a minute for CU, including five true freshmen, doing so these days often would rob practices of any flow or continuity.
"The challenge for me at practice is finding the balance of letting these guys play through their mistakes and stopping them and correcting them every step of the way," Boyle said. "I feel like I could blow the whistle literally every time down the floor. But I know November 10th is coming here pretty quick when we tip it off, and you can't do that during the games. So you've got to let these guys play a little bit.
"The film room is an area I think where this team really has to make some growth, and take the mistakes they made yesterday, see it on film, and come out the next day and not make the same mistakes over again. Finding that balance as a coach — how much do you stop them at practice and correct and teach, which we're doing a lot of — but you don't want to do too much of that and lose that flow."
Since late in the spring, after the early departures of underclassmen Thomas Akyazili and Bryce Peters led to the bolstering of CU's 2017 freshman class with two additional guards in McKinley Wright and Lazar Nikolic, Boyle has described his approach to the 2017-18 season as a sort of reset to the program. Often he has described his own personal approach to the season as an attempt to make it Year 1 with the program instead of Year 8.
Even the players who have been around CU the longest have noted the difference in Boyle's approach through the first two and a half weeks of preseason workouts.
"He's not letting little things slip. He's shortening the leash on us, and I think that's a good thing," said George King, a fifth-year season. "We have a positive outlook because of it."