New ‘culture’ on Miami coach’s agenda

Hiring process completed. Family moved into its new house. Daughters Chloe and Emma enrolled at Talawanda High School and participating in coach Kim Richter’s suddenly accomplished program.

Now, Cleve Wright can hunker down and start coaching some basketball.

The first-year Miami women’s basketball coach officially opened practice Sept. 30. The RedHawks, who lost their top two scorers from last season but return three starters and nine letterwinners from a team that went 19-13 overall and 10-6 in the Mid-American Conference, are scheduled to play an exhibition against Seton Hill on Nov. 2 at 2 p.m. before opening the regular season with a non-conference game against Eastern Kentucky at noon on Nov. 8. Both games are scheduled to be played at Millett Hall.

Wright, who left Division II Gannon University after 11 seasons to replace Maria Fantanarosa at Miami, obviously had gotten a lot done already, but he still had unchecked items left on his “to do” list before the season’s first official tipoff.

“Our biggest goal right now is establishing a culture – not just with the way we want to play, but with the whole program,” said Wright, who was 233-100 at Gannon after spending three seasons as an assistant at Northwestern.

How the RedHawks will look on the court is a big part of that.

“I think you’ll see our team play hard,” said Wright, a graduate of Berea (Ky.) College with a master’s degree in athletic administration from Ball State. “We’ll play strong defense – tough defense – and we’ll be a team that shares the ball. You’ll be able to tell you’re watching Miami because of the way we play together and our work ethic.

“The goal during the preseason is evaluating the players and assigning roles – which could change throughout the year.”

Senior twin guards Haley and Hannah Robertson and senior forward Erica Almady are Miami’s three returning starters. Three freshmen, including 5-foot-8 guard Jillian Spurlock from Hamilton High School, and 5-8 junior guard Kindsay Brandt, a Lakota West graduate and transfer from Cincinnati State, double the number of players lost to graduation by the RedHawks.

Hannah Robertson is Miami’s top returning scorer after averaging 9.6 points in 27 games, including 25 starts, last season. Almady averaged 8.0 points per game in 22 games, including 19 starts, while Haley Robertson averaged 7.0 points in 32 games, including 30 starts.

Courtney Osborn graduated after averaging 19.1 points per game while also leading the RedHawks with 148 assists while playing and starting in all but one of Miami’s 32 games. Kirsten Olowinski started all 32 games and led Miami with an average of 10.5 rebounds while finishing second with an average of 12.1 points per game.

A new wrinkle in NCAA rules gave Wright the opportunity to get an early jump on getting to know his players, he said.

“This year was a little different,” Wright said on Monday, shortly after the press conference at which Sayler and new football coach Mike Bath discussed the change at the top of that program, which meant Wright no longer was the newest coach in the athletic department.

“We were allowed to work with the kids on campus a little bit this summer. We had different groups in in June and July.”