Bluder talks Pan-Am, life after Logic

BY DI STAFF | JULY 29, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa women’s basketball head coach has led the Hawks to eight-consecutive NCAA Tournaments, and she recently led Team U.S.A to a silver medal in the Pan-American Games. In August, she and the Hawkeyes will travel Europe to play professional teams in Italy for some practice ahead of the 2015-16 season.

DI: Overall, what did you take from coaching in the Pan-American Games?

Lisa Bluder: I think anytime you get the opportunity to coach with USA on your chest, it’s a different experience. It’s amazing how other countries feel about the United States and the respect we have in the basketball world. The Pan-Am Games is just an unbelievable event because of all the different sports that are involved, and people are competing for opportunities to go to the Olympics. It’s very important, and it’s just fun to be a part of.

DI: You had a chance to coach Breanna Stewart [2015 Naismith Trophy winner] of UConn, what was it like getting to coach one of the country’s best young players?

Bluder: I had two UConn players and six who played in the Final Four last year. But with the two UConn players, it’s easy to understand why they’re champions when you see the way they go about their day-to-day business. They come early to shoot, they stay late to shoot, they’re vocal, they’re at the front of the line for drills. And so you can see they come from a championship culture. And they’re just really good kids, too. That’s what I think is most enjoyable for me. Now, I respect them not only as basketball players but as really great young women, too.

DI: You ended up losing to Canada in the finals; is the world catching up to the U.S. in basketball?

Bluder: One of the problems with our USA teams was that we split up our collegians into three teams — there was an under-19 national team playing in Russia, there was a world university team playing in Korea, and there was the Pan-Am team. So we had to divide our college players among three teams, and that was very difficult to do.
    In the Pan-Am Games, you’re competing against professional athletes, you’re competing against the Olympic teams. We were the youngest team in that competition by far … we use it as an event for college kids to grow and learn from that experience, but other countries don’t do that.

DI: What as a coach did you gain from the experience?

Bluder: It really made me value what we have at Iowa. When you’re with a team for that short a time, you can’t build culture, you can’t build values. And what we have at Iowa is really special. The culture that we have at Iowa, that takes years to develop, but it’s here now, and it grows every year. It made me appreciate the type of women that we have on our team.

DI: The 2015 recruiting class in ranked No. 17 by ESPN; is it the best class you’ve had at Iowa?

Bluder: I don’t think it’s our highest-rated class we’ve had at Iowa … I think the group that just graduated was the 11th-ranked. But I don’t base a lot of stock on national rankings. That’s somebody else’s opinion of those players. It’s a nice general idea, but it’s not in stone by any means. I wouldn’t say it’s our top recruiting class, but it’s one of our best that we’ve had at Iowa.

DI: What’s exciting about it?

Bluder: I think we’ve filled all of our needs with this recruiting class. For example, we lost a point guard, we lost a center, we lost a wing player to graduation, and we filled all those needs with really quality players. I think Tania Davis is an excellent point guard. She’s a scoring point guard, she’s really kind of electric on the floor. I think Megan [Gustafson] is that blue-collar post player, and they’re so hard to find, and that’s what makes her such a good catch for us. I think Hannah [Stewart] and Tagyn [Larson] both offer us great size at the wing.

DI: Does the presence of Davis and Whitney Jennings at guard put you at ease without Sam Logic?

Bluder: Nothing puts me at ease about graduating Sam Logic, to be quite honest. She was so good, and she did so many intangible things that people didn’t recognize … Her leadership is definitely going to be missed. But I’ve learned after doing this for so many years that it’s 25 percent out, 25 percent in, and you better get used to it.

DI: Is the constant turnover a challenge you love or hate?

Bluder: It’s a challenge that you have to embrace, because if you don’t, you’ll find yourself without a job pretty soon. Do I like it that you train these players to do exactly what you like and get them to do everything really well, and then they leave? No, I don’t. But it takes a long time to develop habits on the court; it takes a long time to develop teamwork. And it takes a long time to let them buy into your culture, and that’s a lot of work, but there’s no way around it. You have to embrace trying to start all over again every year and get some excitement out of doing that every year.

DI: Is this Ally Disterhoft’s team to lead?

Bluder: It definitely will be one of her jobs to take over as a leader. Kali Peschel and Ally Disterhoft were both named captains of our team, and those two, we’re looking to for vocal leadership and how they lead our team. Ally’s been a two-year starter for us, so she knows what’s expected, so I think she’s going to do a great job as a leader of our team.

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