LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) - It’s game day at the KFC Yum! Center, and head coach Jeff Walz is ready to go.
“It’s really, you know, game prep,” said the 45-year-old Walz, now in his 10th season with the Cardinals. “We are just trying to make sure we are getting prepped best we can.”
After 22 years on the sidelines, Walz has got the pregame routine down to a science.
From 10 a.m. all the way up until tip off at 3 p.m., his day is full, starting with morning shoot-around to the team’s lunch, not to mention a few meetings.
One thing that stays constant: Walz never stops coaching.
“It comes down to being truthful,” Walz said. “I wouldn’t want a coach to tell me I’m doing something good when I’m not. “
And Walz has no problems being honest about what’s wrong with his team or society in general.
“When he gave that speech,” senior Cortnee Walton said, thinking back to Walz’s infamous postgame trophy speech. “It didn’t surprise me.”
And that’s because she says Walz is like that all the time. He knows he can be critical of his team, but he says he does it because he cares and wants them to succeed.
“At the end of the day, we are here to help these young women," Walz said. "Not just succeed in basketball, but in life."
Life, as Walz explains, can be unfair, and he wants his players ready for whatever it throws at them.
“At first you are thinking, ‘Gosh, can he just shut up?’” Walton said. “Then you sit back and you think, ‘he’s been doing this longer than we’ve been alive.’ We need to step back and listen.”
Against Boston College, the message for his team was confidence.
“We filled out cards that have the word ‘confidence’ on them.” Walz said. “And I give it to them before every game, because I have confidence in them.”
And that confidence was on display against the Eagles, as the Cardinals quickly took control. But for every right, there seemed to be a wrong from point guard Taylor Johnson. Whenever she would make a mistake, Walz was right there to let her know.
“I didn’t get angry,” said Johnson, a fifth-year senior. “I came here to reach my potential as a point guard, so I know it’s those times he is getting angry at me, it’s because he’s believes in me.”
And he was right to believe, as Johnson corrected her play in the second half, helping Louisville to a victory over Boston College.
“It’s what coaching is all about,” Walz said. “You are trying to help the kids take the next step.”
As the routine goes, Walz expects the players to give the cards with the word "confidence" back to him if they’ve done their job and are ready for him to lead again. On that night, Walz got a card back from Johnson who felt good about her performance
“It’s symbolic,” said Johnson, who scored five points in the victory. “It’s a way for us to really think about if we are giving coach the confidence to put us in crucial situations.”
And for Walz, it’s another way to teach his players about what’s in store for them after college.
“When we do go into the real world, we’ll think, ‘Oh, this isn’t so bad,’ (and that’s because) we had coach Walz as our boss,” Walton said.
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