A new school year. Newly renovated facilities. And a new head coach. The Blue Devils have several things to look forward to this season, and head coach Pam Bustin is more than ready to bring her international experience to give Duke the fresh start it needs.
Not only has Bustin coached at the collegiate level for many years, but she was also a standout player during her four-year career at the University of Massachusetts. She was a team captain and team MVP for the Minutewomen, rounding out her resume as an All-Atlantic 10 honoree and first team All-American in 1988. In addition to her impressive college career, Bustin was also the MVP of the United States under-21 team in 1989 after leading her squad to a silver medal at the Junior Pan American Games. She was named to the senior national team shortly thereafter.
Bustin began coaching soon after graduating as an assistant for Michigan State University, but she more recently revitalized a floundering Louisville team—then suffering from a 34-game losing streak in 1998—to become a six-time regular season conference champion in her 13 years as head coach.
In addition to her playing experience, Bustin was also an assistant coach for the 2008 United States national team, the first U.S. team to qualify for the Olympics since 1996, which placed eighth at the Beijing Olympics. She now helps develop youth players as an assistant coach for the U-19 U.S. team.
“I love the challenge it gives me mentally in preparing, always having a different team and finding the different personalities on the team,” Bustin said. “You’re always trying to create an environment that can win at the highest level.”
Even while at Louisville, Bustin admired the strength of the ACC and scheduled as many matches as possible against the conference’s fiercest competitors, always looking to play at that “highest level.” Now as a coach within the conference, Bustin is excited to face these teams on a weekly basis.
“There’s no argument that the ACC is the strongest conference in the country,” Bustin said. “It has been for many, many years. I love that level of hockey. That’s exactly why I’m here at Duke.”
The difficult ACC schedule has been rough on the Blue Devils in recent years. The team finished second in the conference in 2003 and 2004, but then dropped to third, fourth, and eventually sixth over the next several seasons. The back-to-back losing seasons in 2009 and 2010 were the first for the program since the mid-1990s.
Bustin’s recruiting classes even have an international flair. Her first incoming Duke class comprises just four players but represents three different countries—Great Britain, Canada and the United States.
Even in her first year, Bustin seems excited by the prospect of such tough competition.
“I just love having to prepare for that level of hockey,” Bustin said, “and have the expectation to be one of the best teams in the country.”
That’s exactly the mentality and experience the Blue Devils need.
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