Nearly three weeks ago, Bowling Green defeated Memphis in the WNIT Super 16. Little did Robyn Fralick know, it’d be her third-to-last game as head coach of Bowling Green’s women’s basketball team.
After the victory that laid a step towards Bowling Green’s eventual Fab 4 appearance, Fralick went looking for her family, only to have an unusual difficulty. She ultimately was able to find them huddled around a T.V. while the Michigan State men’s basketball team battled Kansas State in the Sweet 16.
“Clearly we know what the priorities are,” Fralick said.
Fralick was formally introduced Tuesday as the sixth head coach in Michigan State women’s basketball history in front of an energized crowd at the Breslin Center’s Hall of History. Among those in attendance were members of the women’s basketball team and an array of MSU coaches, including former interim head coach Dean Lockwood.
An Okemos native, Fralick was a three-sport high school athlete who earned all-state honors in basketball and all-league honors in soccer and softball. From there, she played four years of basketball at Davidson before breaking in as an assistant coach at Appalachian State in 2004. Fralick was also an assistant at Division II Ashland University until being promoted to her first head coaching position in 2015, then serving the last five years as Bowling Green’s head coach.
But her 10 seasons at Ashland is where Fralick’s five core values were born. She carried them with her to Bowling Green and now Michigan State. She lists them as: being a great teammate, manners matter, trust, toughness and commitment.
“I think something that's really important about them is I think core values can be a trendy word and it can be flat, right?” Fralick said. “They can be on the wall, but it can be flat. In our programs, they're alive.”
Fralick got on Bowling Green’s map after a historic 104-3 run with Ashland. In 2017, she led Ashland to an undefeated season capped off by a Division II national championship. That was followed by a 36-1 season where Ashland finished as the Division II runner-up.
But the transition to Bowling Green wasn’t a perfect one. Bowling Green struggled mightily at first, combining for a 19-42 record in Fralick’s first two seasons. They finally broke out in Fralick’s third season with a 21-8 record, followed by a 15-14 record and a 31-7 season this past winter.
Michigan State athletic director Alan Haller decided he needed to watch Fralick in person, so he and deputy athletic director Epiphany Clark traveled down to Bowling Green last week to watch Fralick take on Florida in the WNIT Great 8. They were in disguise, dressed in black rather than the typical green and white wardrobe as Bowling Green won 69-52 to advance to the Fab 4.
Haller and Clark conversed with those in the crowd, gauging the fans' temperature on Fralick and her program. They watched her coaching techniques closely, confirming she met the desires of MSU’s current players. Fralick had no clue the two of them were there.
“So picking up and I left that game, it was pretty convinced,” Haller said. “Robyn was going to be our next coach.”
Besides that though, Haller said he deferred a bulk of the head coaching search to Clark and associate athletic director Julee Burgess. Except for one “homework assignment” he left for head men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo, who was tasked with doing research of his own on Fralick. Izzo gave his stamp of approval.
“Coach Izzo, thank you,” Fralick said. “I’m glad I passed the homework test.”
Fralick has walked the same streets as Izzo, as with her legendary predecessor Suzy Merchant. One of her fondest memories growing up is attending MSU sporting events and eating a Melting Moments ice cream sandwich.
And soon when the dust settles, she’ll get her hands deep in the program outside of the limited conversations she’s had so far with the team.
“When I went to Bowling Green, I've had experience with what the first 90 days looks like,” Fralick said. “And the most important piece you can build into is the people time.”
In the meantime, Fralick is still soaking it all in.
“I shared with (the team) I'm so grateful and honored to be here,” Fralick said. “I'm excited to be their coach and I'm excited for our journey and our story together.”