Sleep not included
The hectic first three days of a newly hired head coach
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- When Linda Cimino was introduced as the new Binghamton head coach at 2:14 p.m. ET on Friday, April 11, she showed off a comfortable smile and confident manner. The public saw their first glimpse of the vibrant coach who was brought in to spearhead BU’s program rebuild.
What they didn’t see, however, was the dizzying two days that preceded that Friday presser. Cimino received a phone call from director of athletics Patrick Elliott at 10 p.m. on April 8, sharing the news that she had cleared her background check and that her appointment was confirmed. The 72 hours that followed put Cimino’s skills, not to mention her sleep pattern to test.
When professionals transition to a new job, there are the typical maneuvers: tying up loose ends at the current position, perhaps planning a move to another city and state, and finally getting acclimated to the new post. There are weeks, if not months of “notice” and planning. But in the ranks of NCAA Division I basketball coaching, that transition is condensed to days and its degree of difficulty is heightened. It’s akin to a juggling act with numerous balls, none of which can be dropped.
The “balls” Cimino had in the air between April 9-11 included: the emotions and well-being of her Caldwell student-athletes, her friendships and colleagues at the school and in the Metro area, her family (Cimino’s boyfriend, Rob, lives and works on Long Island), preparation for her introduction at Binghamton, her recruits -- both at Caldwell and suddenly, her new recruits at Binghamton, her outgoing position at Caldwell and her insistence on leaving it in perfect shape for a successor, the current BU players and staff, her new boss and co-workers, travel plans, where to live, what to pack and how to quickly get some Bearcat green into her wardrobe.
All the while Cimino kept her own emotions and focus in check -- a task challenged in the hours before the press conference when she learned one of her mentors had passed away.
It was an intense, physically and mentally draining set of days that seemed to bring out the best in Cimino.
“I’m a person who excels under pressure so getting through a quick, emotional week is something I probably could do better than some,” she said. “But I definitely think I was going off pure adrenaline during that stretch.”
Cimino, who also cited a daily morning workout as an energy-boost, chronicled the first 72 hours in a daily journal. Excerpts are below with the complete three-day journal here.
Tuesday, April 8
10 p.m. – Get word from Binghamton that I “passed” my background check
Midnight – Lights out
Wednesday, April 9
5 a.m. – Wake up (five hours of sleep) and make 90-minute drive from Massaequa, New York, to Caldwell, New Jersey.
6:30 a.m. – Arrive at Caldwell and get workout in at Fitness Center (Cimino was in the midst of a 125-day fitness challenge of performing at least 30 minutes of exercise every day).
9 a.m. – Meet with Caldwell AD Mark Corino and put a plan in place to tell the women’s basketball staff, team and administration (Cimino was an associate AD at Caldwell in addition to her coaching role).
10 a.m. – Call my mom, sister and my closest friends.
11 a.m. – Meet with athletics department at Caldwell and announce my departure.
1-2 p.m. – Attend a communications class on campus to assist one of my players, Nicole Angelo, for her class project, which was to conduct a live radio interview. This was very difficult because the subject matter was the future of the Caldwell program and I hadn’t told the team yet. I had decided that since this was a very important project for Nicole’s grade in the class, I wanted her to do great and not be distracted, so I didn’t tell her at the time.
2:30-6 p.m. – Return to my office and organize all my files, complete some unfinished work and show my AD how to do the things I was responsible for (Cimino was a jack-of-all-trades at Caldwell. In addition to her coaching and administrative roles, she handled the equipment room, lined the athletic fields and was one of the most visible people at home events).
6-7:15 p.m. – Drive to the mall to buy a green shirt for the Binghamton press conference.
8-8:45 p.m. – Meet with team. This was very hard … lots of tears. I told them “We all have dreams and this is mine.”
9-10 p.m. – Meet with two players separately.
10 p.m. – 2 a.m. – Clean out office and bring all my personal stuff to car and storage closet
2:15 a.m. – Go down the street to sleep at a friend’s apartment.
Thursday, April 10
6 a.m. – Arrive at Caldwell (3.5 hours of sleep).
6:10-7:10 a.m. – Work out.
8:30 a.m. – Clean out personal stuff from coaches’ locker room and visit with staff, contact remaining “inner circle” who I hadn’t spoken to yet.
10:30 a.m. -12:45 p.m. – Organize equipment room, uniforms, label items for next person. Wash and lay out my personal Caldwell gear for other department colleagues to choose from.
1 p.m. – Meet with Caldwell president and vice president (with my AD).
2-4 p.m. – Get manicure and have hair blown out for press conference.
4 p.m. – Begin drive to Binghamton (2 hours, 20 minutes) – during drive called mentors, AAU coaches, players, friends – on phone entire length of drive (Binghamton released news that Cimino was the new coach at 4 p.m.).
6:30 p.m. – Arrive and check into hotel in Vestal.
7 p.m. – Met with my mom and stepdad and went to Macy’s to buy shoes for press conference.
8 p.m. – Dinner at Texas Roadhouse with my mom and stepdad.
10 p.m. – Go over notes for morning meeting with the BU players and the press conference.
Midnight – Lights out.
Friday, April 11
5 a.m. – Wake-up call (5 hours of sleep).
5:15-6 a.m. – Work out at hotel fitness center.
7:30-9:15 a.m. – Meet with the team, go over some rules, goals.
9:30-10 a.m. – Meet with human resources regarding contract, insurance, benefits, etc.
10 a.m. – Meet with Dave Eagan to review NCAA compliance.
11 a.m. – Meet with John Hartrick and David O’Brian to review press conference itinerary, protocol.
12:15 p.m. – Learned about Hartwell passing … was upset and didn’t eat lunch (Robert Hartwell was the longtime Adelphi AD and a close mentor).
12:30 p.m. – Review notes.
1 p.m. – Talk with my former boss and Caldwell AD, Mark and friend/mentor Phyllis Mangina, who have come to support me at the press conference.
2 p.m. – Press conference!!
4 p.m. – Show family and friends my office and talk to BU colleagues.
5:30 p.m. – Go to dinner at Tully’s with family and two former players, who had also come to the presser.
7:30 p.m. – Start drive back to Long Island (call BU recruit Jasmine Sina and set up visit for Sunday).
11 p.m. – Arrive back in Massapequa.
While Cimino’s schedule in the last few weeks hasn’t matched that of her first three days, the pace is still off-the-charts. First signed recruit. Full-blown media tour. Recruiting trips through four states. Meetings. Phone calls. Paperwork. Packing. Unpacking. Wake-up calls at 4:30 a.m. for early-morning player conditioning. Planning. Relationship-building.
Can you say multi-tasking? Cimino is a master of maximizing her time.
“I’m used to being busy and having my hand in so many things at once so I don’t get overwhelmed very easily,” she said. “I’m very good with time management and I’m able to separate what’s important versus what can wait. I’m just one of those people who gets the most out of every minute of the day. I don’t waste time.”
She has, however, taken the time to reflect on the opportunity and those around her who helped make it possible.
“During this process, I learned that a lot of people are rooting for me and want me to be successful. I’m so lucky to have been mentored by some of the best in the business and as I went through this crazy 72 hours and thereafter, I realized how prepared I actually was," she said. ”The support Cimino received from Caldwell AD Mark Corino and other friends and mentors who attended the press conference spoke volumes about her impact on others. It’s not very common that your outgoing boss drives across three states to lend support at your new place of work. Developing and nurturing relationships comes second-hand to Cimino.
“Your players have to know you care about them off the court … that you have their best interests at heart,” she said. “People know I am loyal, passionate, hardworking and spirited. Who wants to play for a boring coach?”
Judging by Cimino’s first 72 hours and her game plan since … no worries there.
By the Numbers
Different beds slept in: 3
Hours on the Clock: 72
Total Hours of Sleep: 13.5
Hours on the Phone: 10+
Players spoken to: 40+ (2 rosters plus recruits)
Presidents met with: 2
New people introduced to: 50+
Photos taken: 250+
Flower bouquets received: 5
Miles driven: 500+
Gas fill-ups: 3
Smiles: Too many to count