NEW YORK — Leaving St. John's is bittersweet for Kim Barnes Arico.
She's excited for the opportunity to coach at Michigan, but she's leaving a school she and her family have called home for the past decade.
"I thought it was going to be hard, but it was 100 times harder than I could imagine," Barnes Arico told The Associated Press by phone Friday. "I said one word to the team and lost it. It was difficult, I said I'm not going to be back. They've meant so much to me. Their commitment to me. I'm reaping rewards because of them."
Barnes Arico will be officially introduced as the coach of Michigan at a news conference on Monday.
The 41-year-old coach, who has the most wins in program history, has built St. John's into a perennial NCAA tournament team. This past season the Red Storm started off 5-5 before getting injured players back. They won 14 of 16 games at one point, including a victory at UConn in February that ended the Huskies' 99-game home winning streak.
The Red Storm advanced to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history last month before losing to Duke. Ironically, Michigan was in the same subregional for the first round of the NCAAs. The Wolverines lost to Oklahoma, which St. John's beat in the second round.
"They have a lot of support and resources," Barnes Arico said of Michigan. "They have a new AD who has made a commitment to men's and women's basketball."
The Wolverines were 20-12 last season, earning their first NCAA tournament bid since 2001. Barnes Arico succeeds Kevin Borseth, who left the school to go back to Wisconsin-Green Bay this month.
"Kim is an elite coach that will help elevate our women's basketball program to new heights," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement. "Kim has been successful at every coaching stop and has built teams that compete for championships. She is a tireless recruiter who will accomplish great things at Michigan. We are extremely happy that Kim and her family chose to join Michigan Athletics."
Michigan approached Barnes Arico on Monday after the school was turned down by Penn State coach Coquese Washington. She visited the school Wednesday and accepted the job Thursday night.
"The resources, commitment to winning and the football, how could I pass that up?" Barnes Arico said. "It's an opportunity for my kids to grow up on a campus. I had to take this."
Barnes Arico, who was the Big East Coach of the Year, guided the Red Storm to six upsets of ranked opponents this season — four on the road.
"We thank Kim for the great work she has done lifting our program to a prominent level," St. John's director of athletics Chris Monasch said in a statement. "The foundation has been built and the aspiration of our program is to continue to compete among the nation's best."
Barnes Arico said one of the hardest things was telling her three children that she was leaving St. John's.
"My son Trevor asked me if he thought he should come talk to the players with her so that he could be there for them," she said. "They are all like big sisters to him."
The Red Storm elevated Joe Tartamella to interim head coach. Barnes Arico hopes the school gives him a shot at the job.
"His commitment, what he's done has been incredible," she said. "The kids really want him to stay. They've lost me and to them I'm their mother figure. I hope they keep Joe."
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