East Lansing – Robyn Fralick grew up in Okemos, in the shadows of Center Breslin, occasionally playing in one of those pickup games at halftime. I loved the Melting Moments ice cream sandwiches.
Now, it’s Spartan.
Fralick was introduced as the sixth women’s basketball coach in Michigan State history during a raucous press-conference rally Tuesday at the Breslin Center, vowing to build on the program’s success and bring the Spartans back into the mix on a national scale, at a time when the women’s game has never been more popular. time ago.
“It’s exhilarating,” said Fralick, two days after the women’s national championship game. “I’m watching the Final Four and the level of competitiveness, and eyes are on it, as it should be, because it’s incredibly high-level basketball.” A 102-85 LSU win over Iowa State, drew a sell-out crowd in Dallas, record TV ratings, and more social media engagement than ever before. “It’s energizing and motivating.
“And at Michigan State, we’re part of that. We’re a national team, and I’m excited for the challenge.”
Arriving at Michigan State after five years of running at Bowling Green, Fralick, 41, has transformed a lethargic program, hitting a record of 31-7 this season. Bowling Green made its Final Four in the WNIT Tournament.
It was in the quarterfinals of the WNIT that Michigan Athletic Director Alan Haller made a secret trip to Bowling Green to watch the Falcons game in Florida. He didn’t tell Fralek he was coming. He struggled to find clothes that weren’t green or white, or both, so he settled for an all-black outfit, spending his days as an undercover police officer.
Haller said he sat high in the arena, watched the atmosphere, and talked to the fans.
“We really stood out,” said Haller, smiling, “because everyone else was wearing bowling greens.”
Haller liked what he saw during the game, including quick offense and aggressive defense—two qualities that current Spartans players said they look for in their next coach.
By the time Haller emerged from his Stroh Center that night, he knew he was on the right track.
“We were convinced that Robben would be our next coach,” said Haller.
“They took (the search) very seriously,” said Fralick. “I think it didn’t just matter to them who you were on bio, or who you would be in repertoire, but to see it live. … And I’m really glad we won that match, too.”
Bowling Green beat Florida, 69-52, on March 27, before losing in the semifinals to Columbia, 77-70, on March 29. Soon after, she was offered and accepted a job at Michigan State. The terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Considered one of the rising stars in women’s basketball coaching circles, Fralick was an obvious candidate for Haller when Susie Merchant made the decision to step down. She had turned around at Bowling Green, after three highly successful years at Ashland, winning one Division II National Championship as head coach, after winning as an assistant coach. In her three years in Ashland, she’s gone 104-3. For her career, she is 192-76.
Haller leaned on Deputy Athletic Director Epiphany Clark and partner AD Julee Bridges to lead the research, and also spoke to several coaches who have been involved in coaching women’s basketball, including coaches who have won national championships. He also engaged MSU men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo, giving him a “home assignment”.
“Go see what you can find,” Haller told Izzo. And he turned this homework assignment over, gave me my thumbs up and said, ‘It’s all right.’ I know that was our coach.”
“Women’s basketball has never been more popular,” Haller added. “We want to be a part of that fun. We want to be there constantly. We want to have the excitement of the NCAA Tournament.”
Michigan State’s women’s program isn’t as blue as the men’s program, but its history builds up quite well, with 18 NCAA Tournament appearances, including 10 in 16 seasons under Merchant. The Spartans played the national championship game in 2005, losing to Baylor, who was coached by Kim Mulkey, who is now the coach of the national champion LSU Tigers. This MSU team was coached by Joanne P. McCallie, who left to become the head coach at Duke. That led Michigan State to Merchant, who, like Fralick, was a schoolboy in the Mid-American Conference, hired away from Eastern Michigan.
The Spartans haven’t made the NCAA Tournament in the past two seasons, though, at a time when the Big Ten as a whole has never been better—they made seven NCAAs this season, and three made the Elite Eight teams. He missed Michigan State in 2022 amid a high-profile injury spree, then missed it again this season—one that tested the players’ resilience.
Michigan State was without Merchant for the final third of the season, after suffering an undisclosed medical condition that led to a car crash in late January. The women’s team was also one of the first MSU teams to return to action after the fatal shooting on campus. Haller ordered the players to applaud, many of whom were present.
Fralick only had brief meetings with her roster, including a Zoom meeting during the national championship game on Sunday, and then in person before the press conference on Tuesday. Three Michigan State players have entered the transfer gate since the end of the season, including freshman forward Matilda Eich, who has averaged 11.8 points over two seasons, and graduate student forward Tyre Parks, who has averaged 8.3 points this season.
Those close to Fralick say she won’t waste time bonding with her new players.
Those close to her say she will waste no time bonding with her new players.
“She’s very interested,” said Joel Weimer, an assistant on her Bowling Green staff and former high school and college player, who was in attendance Tuesday. He recalled supporting Fralick when his father, Jim, passed away in 2020. “All the things I went through with my dad, she was more of a friend. She just cares about people, first and foremost. That’s what makes her so elite.
“Obviously she’s a great basketball coach, but the players will feel (cared for) right away. She has a way of bringing people together, bringing out the best in people.”
Fralick learned that skill, one of the most important in life, in part, from her teacher and predecessor at Ashland, Sue Ramsey, who told her, “Take care of the people, and take care of the details.”
Fralick’s five core values are about people, not X and O: Be a great teammate; literature matters; trust; hardness; and commitment.
“Core values can be a trendy word, it can be wall-mounted, it can be flat,” she said. “In our program, they are alive.”
Fralick’s next order of business is to finalize the coaching staff. It is very likely that most, if not all, of her senior Bowling Greens (all Michigan natives) senior assistants will join her in East Lansing. (Meanwhile, the Bowling Green brass could turn to one of the school’s legendary players, Detroit Mercy coach Kate Ashter.)
East Lansing, of course, holds a special place in her heart; Although she went to school in Davidson, she grew up fanning Michigan State, and her family is still huge Spartan fans. She said after beating Memphis in the WNIT, she was trying to find her family, and she did — she huddled around a TV watching the Spartans Sweet 16 game against Kansas State.
Also present at Tuesday’s press conference were several other Michigan State coaches, including Dean Lockwood, who has been the interim head coach in Merchant’s absence — and since her resignation in mid-March; Plus Fralick’s husband, Tim, a former University of Oakland player, and their two young children, Will and Clara, whom Fralick is sure will grow to love this new experience, and all the melty moments they can put up with.
Just like Fralick did when he was a kid.
Now, she’s in charge — and in many ways, in awe.
“I can’t believe it. I was amazed to watch these teams and players with such admiration. It feels surreal.” He was greeted by the beloved Spartans and fans, said Fralick, who walked into the Hall of History at the Breslin Center. Shortly after her remarks, she thanked Merchant “and all the coaches who came before her and who paved the way.”
“I am grateful for the momentum they have created here, and our task now is to continue that.”
“Student. Incurable problem solver. Amateur baconaholic. Introvert. Infuriatingly humble music fanatic.”