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Ceal Barry coaching tree to continue CU legend’s impact on women’s basketball

Retiring CU Buffs associate AD has left trail of proteges

Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Former CU coach Linda Lappe has followed in Ceal Barry’s footsteps and moved on to a job in the San Francisco athletic department.
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It wasn’t a meeting that, at first glance, foretold of some momentous and extremely successful working relationship. It was more like grabbing an after-work burger.

In the spring of 1996, and LaTonya Watson was visiting Colorado Springs while working a basketball camp at the Air Force Academy. Ceal Barry, then the women’s basketball coach at Colorado, was working as an assistant coach for the U.S. Women’s National Team, which would win a gold medal later that summer at the Atlanta Olympics.

Barry met Watson at a nearby Boston Market for one of the most informal yet ultimately successful job interviews in Colorado basketball history.

“That conversation lasted all of an hour. And at the end of that hour she asked me if I wanted to be part of her staff,” Watson said. “It was a no-brainer for me. The rest is history as far as that is concerned. I wouldn’t be here where I am, and I wouldn’t be who I am, without the mentorship and learning from Ceal Barry.

“That was the first time, and probably the last time, that I will ever have an interview for a job wearing shorts and a polo, and her wearing a warm-up suit.”

As Barry calls it quits on a CU coaching and administrative career that spanned 37 years, the legacy she built at Boulder will be carried forward by a vast and ever-expanding coaching tree bursting with former Barry players and assistants.

In many ways, Watson represents the tracing of Barry’s coaching career from beginning to end. As a player at Eastern Michigan, Watson played for Cheryl Getz, who played for Barry at the University of Cincinnati during Barry’s pre-CU days. Following that fateful Boston Market interview, Watson became an assistant on Barry’s final eight Buffs teams, including the 2002 Elite 8 squad. During Barry’s administrative years at CU, Watson returned to CU for a three-year stint under Linda Lappe, another former Barry player.

“She is one of my biggest champions. A mentor, friend. Any major decision that I’ve made, or anything major that has happened in my life, she is one of my first phone calls,” said Watson, who returned to CU last year as a visiting coach with the New Jersey Institute of Technology. “When I need advice, sound advice — and not just the feel-good stuff, but the truth and honesty — I call on Ceal. She’s always been there for me.”

Barry’s influence on women’s college basketball won’t run dry any time soon. Jenny (Roulier) Huth just finished her second season as the head coach at Northern Colorado. Lappe has followed Barry’s career path a step further than most, serving as a senior associate athletic director and the senior woman administrator at the University of San Francisco. Former CU assistant Tanya Haave is leading the women’s program at Metro State. And Barry’s ongoing influence isn’t limited strictly to Xs and Os. Former CU assistant Karen Morrison, who was on the staff for the Buffs’ Elite 8 teams of 1993 and 1995, spent eight years as the NCAA’s Director of Inclusion.

“She’s all about how it’s not about you, but about serving others. That’s a lot of her advice,” Huth said. “She’s been on calls with me a lot this spring and she talks with me about how to act as a head coach. What are the characteristics. You’re not an assistant anymore. You have to walk into this role of head coach and you’ve got to lead your staff, you’ve got to lead your players, and explaining what an amazing responsibility being a head coach is. I think in her retirement she can now sense how much of an impact she made.”