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By VITO CHIRCO/ VN SPORTS EDITOR
On January 21, 2015

BY VITO CHIRCO

VN SPORTS EDITOR

 

Intense. Fiery. Passionate.

Any of the three aforementioned adjectives can be used to aptly describe the coaching style of one Autumn Rademacher, head women’s basketball coach.

And no longer is she just the women’s basketball head coach at UDM. She’s also now the winningest head coach in Detroit women’s basketball history, after passing her former coach Fred Procter with a win on the road against Delaware State.

In her seventh year as the head coach at her alma mater, Rademacher eclipsed a mark that she thought wouldn’t be on the horizon for another handful of years after guiding her squad to only six victories during the 2013-14 campaign – her lowest single-season win total as head coach.

As much as it means to Rademacher to have made UDM history, she said she’ll remain unsatisfied until she leads the Titans to an NCAA Tournament appearance.

The Titans have failed to punch a ticket to the “Big Dance” since Rademacher’s final season as a player in 1997, a year in which she also claimed first team all-conference honors.

“I want my kids to get the chance to be in it,” Rademacher said. “Everything about it is so surreal, from watching the selection show along with your teammates and media in the Titan Club to hearing where you're going to play.”

When she graduated in 1997 with her degree in criminal justice, she didn’t envision that she would be responsible for attempting to lead the Titans to their second tourney berth in program history.

Post-graduation, Rademacher was unsure what path she wanted to follow until the opportunity to be an assistant on the Western Michigan staff arose.

“It kind of just fell into my lap,” she said. “I had a few people say that I should try coaching, and so I decided to take a stab at it.”

Her seven years as an assistant with the Broncos led her to another coaching opportunity – this time with a Horizon League rival of Detroit in the Green Bay Phoenix.

To land the job with the team that Rademacher and her teammates beat to win the conference tournament in 1997, all it took was a phone call made by the 2010 Horizon League Coach of the Year to Kevin Borseth, a seven-time winner of the same award with the Phoenix.

It was the coaching stop that she needed in order to realize that leading her own program was a full-blown possibility.

Culturally and socially, Rademacher admits that Green Bay might be a “decade behind.”

However, her former boss Borseth is definitely not behind anyone. He gets the most out of his players and his perennially ranked top-25 basketball program.

“If I see Coach Borseth in a gym, I’m going to sit by him because he’s a one-of-a-kind coach, being both funny and outgoing,” Rademacher said.

Borseth fiery competitiveness has rubbed off on Rademacher, the third-leading scorer in UDM women's hoops history.

Although she hasn’t had a postgame press conference of her own go viral yet – as Borseth did during his five-year stint at the University of Michigan – she’s taken on his edginess when it comes to dealing with the ebbs and flows of a season that lasts at least 30 games.

"She is a very intense person, but it's only because she is so passionate about basketball," junior guard Rosanna Reynolds said. "She is always looking for ways to get better and is very focused during the long season. She never rests!"

And as good as her assistants are, Rademacher knows that the success of the program is all on her at the end of the day.

Thus, knowing all the plays and the plays of her opponents through thorough scouting is a step she's taken in becoming the big boss of her own program, and it’s a vital lesson she learned during her time in the cheese-producing state.

You have to be a “one-person wrecking crew” in order to lead a program successfully over the long-term, and Rademacher has been just that in her first head coaching gig.

It’s why she was able to end Green Bay’s perfect season and school record 40-game regular season winning streak in 2012 as well as lead her program to a Women’s Basketball Invitational championship – a step below the postseason National Invitational Tournament but good for Detroit’s first postseason tournament title since the 1981 State-Large College Tournament – in her fifth year on the job.

But it’s also hard to win every battle that the job hands you, as displayed by last year’s very tough season for Rademacher and the Titans.

With the aforementioned topsy-turvy circumstances of coaching at the collegiate level, you have to learn to pick fights that are winnable.

With last year being a lost season partly due to injuries to key players like junior Rosie Reynolds and senior Ellisha Crosby, Rademacher didn't sweat all the losses as they built into an 11-game losing streak, a stretch that lasted from mid-December to Feb. 1.

She stayed relatively even-keeled and as colorful as ever in her postgame commentary.

It’s because, she said, she realized the importance of “not sweating” the little things that were out of her control, a vital lesson taught by Borseth.

As a result, he has been able to sustain success in both of his stints at Green Bay. (He left to coach U-M in 2007.)

With the same mentality going forward and a return close to the squad’s winning ways from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 campaigns, Rademacher has a great shot at securing the same sort of longevity maintained by the formidable leader and mentor in Green Bay.

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