It was a cold and snowy night when the Brigham Young University women's basketball team came to Boulder for the first round of the NCAA Tournament on March 22, 2003.
Jonas Chatterton was an assistant coach at BYU at the time, while LaTonya Watson was an assistant at Colorado and Linda Lappe was a senior for the Buffaloes.
"The Buffs had a good team that year and we took it pretty good on the chin that night," Chatterton said of the 84-45 Colorado victory.
Ten years and one day later, Lappe, Chatterton and Watson will be on the same bench as they coach the 19th-ranked Buffaloes (25-6) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Kansas (18-13). Ironically, the forecast for Saturday calls for snow again.
None of Colorado's current players have experienced the NCAA Tournament, but that game in 2003 was just one of many that CU's coaches have been involved with.
Lappe, now CU's head coach, has never coached in this tournament, but she did participate three times as a player, for a total of nine games.
Chatterton helped BYU get to the tournament four times, including a run to the Sweet 16 -- as a No. 11 seed -- in 2002.
This will be Watson's sixth trip to the Tournament as a coach, all with CU. She was on Ceal Barry's staff during CU's five most recent trips, in 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. The Buffs went 8-5 in those years.
Throw in the four times that Jenni Benningfield, CU's director of operations, played in the tournament from 2001-04 at Vanderbilt; the three times that video coordinator Dan Doerflein went as a member of BYU's staff (with Chatterton); and the fact that Barry, who led the Buffs to the Tournament 12 times, is still a key member of the athletic department, and it's clear the Buffs don't lack experience on the big stage.
The question is whether that experience can help the current players this weekend.
"I think being in it, it's a special experience," Chatterton said. "At least going through it as a coach, you understand kind of the demands of what's going to happen and everything else.
"I think it helps a little bit, but anywhere you are, the NCAA Tournament is a great experience and every time you do it it's a new experience. It's a wonderful thing."
Chatterton added that it's impossible to fully prepare CU players for the experience.
"Until you actually play in it, your team doesn't know exactly how special it is," he said.
Knowing that, Watson said she has tried to impress upon the Buffs how special of an event it will be, and to take advantage of it.
"Seize the moment is the biggest thing that I can share with them," Watson said. "It's not just another game, but when that ball goes up, you've got to have pin-point focus because all 64 teams earned the right to be here. That cuts down on the number of errors that you can have."
Sophomore Jen Reese said Lappe, Chatterton and Watson have talked to the team about their experiences, and she feels it will help, and has helped already.
"Practices have been going really well," Reese said. "We don't really feel pressured right now. It's been a while since we've played, so we're ready to get back on the floor on Saturday and play."
While the Buffs don't have NCAA experience, they do have tournament experience. CU has been to the Women's NIT the last two years, reaching the quarterfinals both times. Going to the WNIT allowed the Buffs to experience playing deep into the season. Being familiar with that win-or-go home feeling could help, too.
"We knew going into it once we lost, we had to go home," Reese said of last year's WNIT. "I feel like we didn't want to lose and we did a great job of playing to get into that tournament and doing the best we could."
Perhaps more so than helping the players, the NCAA experience of the CU staff may actually be most beneficial to the staff itself. Because they've been there, they know how to get ready.
"I think it does (help) because what it takes to get to the NCAA Tournament is a mentality and it's not just something you just show up with in March," Lappe said.
It's an attitude Lappe looked for when building her staff after she was hired in 2010.
"It was important with me in hiring a staff that you hire people that have won and have won at a high level because I think that's contagious," Lappe said. "Anybody that's done that knows what it takes and knows how good you have to be on a daily basis.
"When you have people that are hungry to get to the highest level every single day, I think it's going to happen at some point."
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