Editor's note: Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale will share a diary with ESPN.com throughout the season for the fourth consecutive year.
Nov. 7, 2004
One of the things I love most about being a coach is that every year is a new beginning. The slate starts clean. Dreams of how you want it to end are fresh and real and palpable. The end never seems that far away in the beginning.
But that's not so at this time of year. Right now you can feel the dream in your bones.
We are 17 practices and one exhibition game into the 2004-05 season. And I still really like my team. That has to be a good sign, doesn't it? They have a life about them that is infectious. The older I get the more certain I am of how that "life" is born. Everyone who has a tattered tool belt of experience in any venue knows exactly what I mean. Special relationships don't happen, they are forged. They are forged through the dailyness of celebrations and struggles, mountains climbed and quicksand survived.
I have 14 kids on my roster. The two oldest played for a national championship in San Antonio in 2002. The two youngest played in high school gymnasiums exactly seven months ago. The 10 in the middle have been tested and tried in front of God and everybody. I like the pieces of my puzzle.
Our first exhibition game was less like recess than any opener I can remember. We competed relentlessly -- in the opening minutes when it was back and forth and in the waning minutes when it was us by 50. We passed with efficiency, we shot it well, we defended, we rebounded, and we ran. I felt like we played Oklahoma basketball for 40 minutes. It wasn't perfect and Riga Latvia wasn't the University of Connecticut, but it was a solid start.
And it was lots of fun. I can't remember ever laughing so much in the course of a contest. Higgins threw a fast-break pass down the floor to Leah that nailed her squarely in the forehead, before bouncing to an open teammate for a 3. A little later, Kelly Lam had the ball knocked loose while attempting a post move. The deflection went straight to Kendra Moore who was sprinting through to the hoop on a basket cut. She scored and it would have been beautiful if only the assist hadn't gone to Latvia. And then for a curtain call, with about 12 minutes remaining, a Dionnah Jackson pass went off Beky Preston's hands straight into the basket. I don't know who got the assist and who got the basket but I do know that I'd rather be good than lucky. I do not, however, have a problem with being both.
Preseason predictions have us everywhere from 12 to 25. The Big 12 coaches' poll has us picked to finish fifth. I hate it all. The guessing, the extrapolations, the comparisons ... it all gives me a headache. And none of it matters one bit. It wouldn't if we were No. 1 and it doesn't since we're not.
Basketball is not a game of entitlement. No one gives you anything in the end. So we are in pursuit. Not of a higher ranking or even a greater range of respect. We're just in pursuit of an ending we can taste and see and smell. And we're in dogged pursuit of that together. If I've learned anything over the course of my time in this profession, I have learned this: It is that "together" that makes all the difference in the world. Can't wait to go for real ... our bones are aching for Indianapolis in the spring.
For more on coach Coale and the Sooners, visit Oklahoma's official athletic site.