Every time Kelly Roysland takes her seat on the Minnesota sideline, she’s following in her parents’ footsteps.
Roysland, who helped take the Gophers to the Final Four as a player just seven years ago, is in her first year as an assistant coach at her alma mater. She’s also continuing a family coaching tradition that stretches back more than three decades.
Her parents, Mike and Kim Roysland, have been coaching for more than 60 years combined and were both inducted into Bemidji State’s athletic hall of fame in 2008. Mike is currently the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Minnesota, Crookston.
“I grew up in a coaching family, and it kind of seemed like a natural fit,” Kelly said.
As a player under current head coach Pam Borton from 2003-2007, Kelly finished her career as the Gophers’ 12th all-time leading scorer with 1,074 points. During her freshman season, she scored in all five games of the program’s Final Four run, and by her senior year she was a team captain and was selected third team All-Big Ten.
Kelly had considered coaching, but after graduation, the question was: Where?
It didn’t take her long to find an answer.
In June 2008, Kelly was hired as an assistant at North Dakota State University. While she was at the program, NDSU went 32-26 overall, including a 23-13 conference record. She worked with the Bison for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons, but knew that she eventually wanted to return to the Gophers.
“In the coaching profession, anytime that you can go back to someplace that has meant so much for you — where you spent a significant amount of time — I think a lot of people would jump at that opportunity,” Kelly said.
Word of her skills as a coach spread, and in October she received a call from coach Borton inviting her to join Minnesota’s staff.
“It’s been a very easy adjustment,” Borton said of Kelly’s first year in the program. “There’s been no teaching or a big learning curve.”
Borton is encouraged by Kelly’s understanding of the program, her winning ways at NDSU and her family’s knack for coaching.
Incidentally, Kelly has matched coaching wits with her father twice in exhibition games. She’s quick to point out that her team won both games, however Kelly and her father make it clear that both experiences were more fun than anything else.
“It’s really kind of a win-win situation,” Mike said about the exhibitions. “I’m used to it because I coached for a long time against my wife. Fifteen years, I had to go head-to-head against her.”
Make no mistake; the Royslands are competitive. Mike somewhat begrudgingly admits that “[Kelly’s] got the upper hand” on him right now, even though he was never sure she would end up inheriting the family business.
“I basically did not know that she was going to follow in those footsteps until she got done [playing at Minnesota],” he said.
Regardless, Kelly’s foray into coaching seems to fit. Senior guard China Antoine said that Kelly’s youth and recent experience as a Gophers player helps her relate to players.
“It’s always good to have people that have gone through the system,” Antoine said. “From the second she got here she’s been very personable and has helped us out with everything that she can.”
Kelly’s responsibilities with the women’s team involve developing the guards and perimeter players, scouting opponents and recruiting.
Kelly’s said she’s comfortable overseeing and organizing many of the team’s recruiting efforts, a role she views as advantageous thanks to her Minnesotan roots. She can talk with potential players about what it means to play for Minnesota and under Borton, and how it can be beneficial to stay in-state.
Kelly said some of the players she’s recruited actually followed her college playing career. “I’m kind of on the same wavelength as them,” Kelly said of her in-state recruiting efforts. “We love to keep Minnesota kids here.”
While this is probably the first of many years coaching with the Gophers, there’s always the next step to think about — head coaching.
“Now that I’ve been an assistant for almost three years, I think it would be fun at some point to have the opportunity to run your own program,” Kelly said.
With her family coaching history and the experience she’s gained an assistant, Borton said she thinks a program of her own is well within Kelly’s grasp.
“I think she knows the game extremely well, I think she’s a great teacher,” Borton said. “There’s no doubt that she’d make a great head coach someday.”
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