Niya Butts coughed into her hand and reached for a small box of Kleenex.
The new coach has been fighting a cold since Saturday, but downtime for rest has been limited.
Her Arizona Wildcats women's basketball team begins official practice today at Bear Down Gym, and the team will play its first scrimmage in less than two weeks. Life is about to become even more hectic.
"It's getting better," Butts said of the illness during the team's media day Thursday at McKale Center.
Butts has envisioned a long list of offensive and defensive drills for today's practice, her first as a head coach — a list so long it won't fit into the allotted 2 1/2 hours.
"With the girls, there's some anxiety, some excitement. They know what to expect, but don't know what to expect," Butts said.
So much is unknown because the team is so new.
Arizona hired Butts, a former Kentucky assistant coach, on April 3 to replace 17-year coach Joan Bonvicini. The roster includes seven newcomers, five of them freshmen. The players have become acclimated while participating in early-morning workouts since July.
"We all pretty much bonded right away," said senior forward Sarah Hays, one of five players back from last season. "We're getting used to each other."
Butts did not reveal a starting lineup, but she and players indicated the team hopes to run a transition offense.
Much of the team's talent lies in its youth. Sophomore forward Ify Ibekwe was the team's leading shot blocker last season. Ibekwe's former high school teammate, Reiko Thomas, and Courtney Clements head up a strong freshman class.
Senior forward Amina Njonkou, the UA's second-leading scorer and top rebounder last season, and sophomore guard Tasha Dickey will provide experience.
"Our goal is to go as far as possible," said junior Ashley Frazier, who transferred from South Plains College in Texas and could see time at the point. "The school hasn't had a good record in the past few years, so hopefully we can turn it around. It's not going to be in one season, everything goes great. Gradually, we'll try to turn it around."
The Pac-10 has yet to release a coaches' poll for expected league standings.
"Even if there was, I don't know how much attention I'd pay to it," Butts said.
Last season, Arizona finished 10-20 overall and 4-14 in the conference. The Wildcats are starting anew after three consecutive losing seasons and a coaching change.
"Arizona is not a definite powerhouse. I came here to try to start something and help a new program to a winning level," Thomas said.
• What: Red & Blue Game
• When: 7 p.m. Oct. 29
• Where: McKale Center