GREELEY — Tad Boyle walked onto his first tee box at Greeley Country Club without a whole lot of confidence in his bag.
"My golf game tells you that I'm not spending too much time on the course," Boyle said after the University of Colorado's annual "Count Casotti Classic" golf tournament Monday to honor the late Fred Casotti, a longtime former Buffs sports information director and associate athletic director.
Thankfully, Boyle isn't tasked with driving, chipping or putting as part of his Buffaloes employment. The 55-year-old Greeley native instead enters his ninth season as coach for CU men's basketball and, unlike with his golf game, he lacks no swagger when projecting the 2019 Buffaloes.
"It's time to get back to where we want to be," Boyle said, "which is in the NCAA tournament and competing for Pac-12 championships."
The start of our series this week counting down top returning players for next season: @DavidsonMBB @MizzouHoops @LSUBasketball @CycloneMBB @CUBuffsMBB @Big12Conference @SEC @A10MBB @pac12 https://t.co/Y76nP14il3— Andy Katz (@TheAndyKatz) July 2, 2018
Boyle led CU to NCAA tournament appearances in four of his first five seasons in Boulder, including one Pac-12 tournament title, but after an NIT bid in 2017, the Buffs missed the entirety of postseason play after a second-round conference tournament exit this past season. CU managed a single Pac-12 road win the whole regular season and finished at 17-15 overall.
Boyle's CU resume includes five NBA draft picks — and five of the Buffaloes' 20-plus win seasons all time have arrived under his watch. Yet patience for a consistent winner can be razor thin even for the most established major-college basketball coaches. Inevitably, "hot seat" chatter will rise when CU takes the floor next fall.
"I think the people who kind of watch us from afar and really don't maybe follow us game to game, I don't think they really know how good we can be," Boyle said. "I think the people that know our team and follow our program are just as excited as I am."
The return of an experienced young core, headlined by point guard McKinley Wright, an honorable mention all-league team and defensive team selection as a true freshman, is what fuels Boyle's enthusiasm. He described the Buffs' latest summer workouts as having a "good vibe" with less basic instruction and more complex implementation.
However, competition will remain stiff in a talent-rich conference. CU's 2018 recruiting class ranked 11th out of 12 teams, per 24/7 Sports, a drop of five spots from the Buffs' heralded group from a year ago. Oregon appears the early favorite to win the league in 2019 with the addition of five-star prospects Bol Bol and Louis King.
But much like a unpredictable tee shot, Boyle isn't worried about what he can't control.
One stroke at a time.
"I don't wake up every morning thinking about the NCAA Tournament," Boyle said. "I just know that we have the talent in place and the players in place. That's the standard we've set for ourselves internally with this program.
"I love our team. I'm really optimistic about next year."
This article is written by Kyle Fredrickson from Denver Post and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.