CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Joanne Boyle turned down her alma mater when Duke was looking for a basketball coach four years ago. This time, she was ready when Virginia came calling.
"You know, life is a journey, and it's just time and place is everything," she said. "You know, I've kind of put my head down and just run with my career, and I look up and I'm 47 and looking at the next challenge or what I want to do.
"This opportunity opened up in the ACC and was a perfect time in my life, and it gets me back to the East Coast close to my family, and I know the ACC and the conference and the challenges it has but how competitive it is."
Boyle agreed to a five-year contract that will pay her $700,000 a season. She also gets a $125,000 signing bonus and another $125,000 if she stays all five years.
She said that when Duke sought her she was just two years into rebuilding at California and not ready to tell her players she was leaving.
Now, she's tasked with replacing Hall of Famer Debbie Ryan, who spent the last 34 years building what became one of the nation's strongest women's programs. Ryan resigned at the end the season, the fourth in the past eight that the Cavaliers missed the NCAA tournament.
After playing for four years at Duke, and then coaching there for nine years, Boyle knows what it takes to win in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Her formula for success will involve pushing the pace in transition, playing tough defense and committing to rebounding.
She'd also like to start getting some of Virginia's best players to stay home.
The Cavaliers' decline has coincided with the growth of women's basketball in the state, and one of Ryan's biggest failures was the inability to lure many top prospects to Virginia.
Among the ones that left were Kara Lawson (Tennessee), Kristi Toliver (Maryland), Jasmine Thomas (Duke) and, this year, Elizabeth Williams of Princess Anne in Virginia Beach (Duke).
"You've got to protect your state and you've got to try and keep as many kids at home, and again, you've got to win, and you've got to build a strong program and something that they believe in," said Boyle, who will attend tournaments as early as this weekend.
Having spent three years (2002-04) at Richmond before heading to California, Boyle said her only experience is with schools that focus on academics, so she's comfortable in that arena.
Athletic director Craig Littlepage said that was important to Virginia, and that when her qualifications were put before what he termed "industry experts and other important stakeholders," Boyle proved a "perfect match."
Boyle met briefly with her team Monday, and freshman Ataira Franklin was impressed.
"I just feel like a really good vibe right now," Franklin said. "Just everything she's talking about, the things that she believes in, it's kind of where we want to go."
Franklin and other players like that Boyle believes in an open-door policy and the importance of relationships with her players.
"I remember playing there two years ago, freshman year in the NCAA tournament, and we lost by 20, so she's obviously doing something right," Chelsea Shine said, recalling a 99-73 loss in 2009.
Boyle had a 137-64 record at Cal, where the school had gone 12 years without a winning record when she arrived, and an overall record of 204-93. Her teams have never missed postseason play, and when the Golden Bears played in the WNIT last season, they won the championship.