It was not a meeting that at first glance foretold a memorable and highly successful working relationship. It was more like grabbing a burger after work.
In the spring of 1996, LaTonya Watson visited Colorado Springs from Texas during a basketball camp at the Air Force Academy. Ceal Barry, then the women’s basketball coach in Colorado, worked as an assistant coach for the United States women’s national team, which would win a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics later that summer.
Barry met Watson at a nearby Boston Market for one of the most casual but ultimately successful job interviews in Colorado’s basketball history.
“That conversation lasted the whole 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 good idea for me. The rest is history in that regard. I wouldn’t be here where I am, and I wouldn’t be who I am without Ceal Barry’s mentorship and learning.
“That was the first and probably the last time I’ve ever interviewed for a job wearing shorts and a polo, and she’s wearing a warm-up.”
As Barry puts it to quit a 37-year coaching and administrative career from CU, the legacy she has built up in Boulder will continue through a massive and ever-expanding coaching boom full of former Barry players and assistants .
In many ways, Watson represents the tracing of Barry’s coaching career from start to finish. As a player in Eastern Michigan, Watson played for Cheryl Getz, who played for Barry at the University of Cincinnati during Barry’s pre-CU days. After that fateful interview with Boston Market, Watson became an assistant in Barry’s last eight Buffs teams, including the 2002 Elite 8 squad. During Barry’s administrative years at CU, Watson returned to CU for a three-year period under Linda Lappe, another former Barry player.
“She is one of my greatest champions. A mentor, friend. Every important decision I’ve made, or something important that has happened in my life, is one of my first phone calls, “said Watson, who returned to CU last year as a visiting coach at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. “When I need advice, solid advice – and not just the feel-good things, but the truth and honesty – I call on Ceal. She has always been there for me. “
Barry’s influence on women’s college basketball will not dry up anytime soon. Jenny (Roulier) Huth just finished her second season as a head coach in Northern Colorado. Lappe has followed Barry’s career path a step further than most, as a senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator at the University of San Francisco. Former CU assistant Tanya Haave leads the women’s program at Metro State. And Barry’s continued influence isn’t strictly limited to Xs and Os. Former CU assistant Karen Morrison, who was on the staff of the Buffs’ Elite 8 teams in 1993 and 1995, spent eight years as the NCAA’s Director of Inclusion.
“It’s about not being about you, but about serving others. That’s a lot of her advice, ”Huth said. “She called me a lot this spring and she talks to me about how to act as head coach. What are the features. You are no longer an assistant. You have to step into this role as head coach and you have to lead your staff, you have to lead your players and explain what a great responsibility a head coach is. I think now she can feel how much impact she has made.