CLEMSON - Cristy McKinney is hoping to start a trend of turning programs around in five years.
The Tigers women's basketball coach is in her fifth season. While the Tigers have equaled or surpassed previous season's win totals each year under McKinney, they have yet to make the postseason.
It is similar to her experience at Rice, where the Owls failed to reach the postseason in her first four years before making six postseason appearances during her final eight seasons.
McKinney talks about changing the culture at Clemson. While the talent has not been up to par with North Carolina and Duke, neither have confidence levels.
"I do think we are closer to getting players to understand what it takes to be successful," McKinney said. "Understand that culture you need, get that mindset."
Despite returning 12 players including third-team All-ACC selection Lele Hardy, the Tigers were selected 11th in the ACC, coming off a 2-12 season in the ACC and a 14-17 overall mark.
To record her first winning season at Clemson, McKinney is looking for more leadership from Hardy. The senior led the team in scoring (16.2 ppg), rebounding (8.4 rpg) and was second in assists (3 apg) last season.
But a vocal, example-setting Hardy, who is coming off ankle surgery, is important as the team will start freshman Keyrra Gillespie at point guard.
Perhaps the key is the frontcourt, where the leading returning scorer, April Parker, averaged 5.8 points per game.
McKinney says she thinks Clemson will be more balanced in its scoring and it will need to be as the schedule is daunting; 14 of the Clemson's 26 opponents reached the postseason.
"Finishing above .500 is a definitely a goal," McKinney said. "I think this program has really grown."