Tracy Roller thinks the transition from assistant coach to head coach of Ball State University has been an easy one. There is only one problem. "The only difference is the media," she said. "There weren't to many people asking assistant coaches questions."
Roller grew up in Oakland City, in the northwestern part of Indiana. As the daughter of a coach, she was destined to have a future in basketball. In 1985, she led the Crown Point High School Lady Bulldogs to a state championship. She was selected to the Indiana All-Star team in 1988. After graduating from Crown Point in 1988, Roller signed on at Eastern Illinois University. At Eastern Illinois, she was a two-time GTE Academic All-American.
Roller's first coaching job came as an assistant at Valparaiso University. At Valparaiso, Roller was in charge of recruiting, scouting and academic progress. In her years at Valpo, she started to mold her own coaching philosophy.
"You start to develop your own philosophy as an assistant," Roller explained. "You take bits and pieces of other people. I learned a lot there."
Roller calls her philosophy the best of both worlds.
"I'm a basketball fan by nature," she said. "Offensive games are fun to watch, but I know we have to be defensively oriented to win big games."
Roller joined the Cardinals prior to the 1999-2000 season as an assistant under Brenda Oldfield. For two seasons, Roller was in charge of recruiting and working with the post players. Center Amy Fuller said the recruitment of the current players gives her an advantage.
"She knows us so well," Fuller said. "She knows what we can do and what we need to work on."
Some of her recruits include sophomore Johna Goff, last year's MAC Freshman of the Year, and Indiana All-Star, freshman Kate Endress.
Roller's work with post players produced immediate results in Ball State's game.
Last year the Cardinals set a record for rebounds in a season and posted the second highest blocked shots mark in school history.
On June 20, Roller's dream of becoming a head coach came true.
"Getting a head coaching job in the state that I grew up in is pretty cool. I'm definitely living a dream," she said.
Roller also brought in a whole new coaching staff with her. Tisha Hill will coach the guards and help with recruiting. Kristin Cole will be in charge of the forwards and centers. And Lisa McDonald will be handling on-campus business and scouting.
"We are all assistant coaches, so we all think alike and work together," Roller explained.
"The transition has been awesome," Cole remarked. "There's a lot of bonding going on."
It is the mission of the coaching staff to take Ball State women's basketball to the next level. The program has blossomed in the last two seasons, but the team knows there is more work to be done.
"We want to win the MAC," Cole said confidently. "Not just the west, but the whole thing."
"We haven't proven anything in the MAC tournament yet. We also want to get to the point where we are beating teams we aren't supposed to beat."
That is not an unrealistic goal. The Cardinals are returning a solid core from last season's 19-9 team.