Back in her Stanford days, both as a player and an assistant coach, the goals were always clear-cut to Bobbie Kelsey — get to the Final Four and win a national championship.
Lofty goals, but not unreasonable considering the Cardinal made it to the Final Four in seven of her nine seasons there and won one NCAA title.
Now in her role as University of Wisconsin women's basketball coach, setting goals is a little more complicated.
While she ultimately would like to see the Badgers rise to a Stanford-level program, she knows there are a lot of steps that need to be taken before any such notion can be taken seriously.
"Our goals are different from a Stanford," Kelsey said during an interview in her office at the Kohl Center. "We're just trying to win or compete for a Big Ten title; they're trying to win national championships.
"I'm not going to sit here and say we're going to win the national championship. I'd look stupid saying something like that. But if you're not improving or doing things that are going to get you in that direction, why are you even coaching or playing or whatever."
While her long-term goals remain ambitious, Kelsey's short-term aspirations for the program are considerably more modest. A 9-20 overall record and a ninth-place tie at 5-11 in her first Big Ten Conference season provided a healthy dose of reality to those expectations.
"I knew this team was not a Stanford team," said Kelsey, who was hired last April to succeed Lisa Stone. "But when you're not in the situation it's hard to imagine it. I didn't lose 20 games in four years at Stanford. Just the reality of that was very humbling."
Thus, her humble immediate goals are just to see improvement next season. And the measurement of that improvement is a little fuzzy at this point.
"People who expect a miracle have never coached," she said. "That's why I don't really verbalize a lot of things. I say improvement, whatever that means.
"But don't say we're going to win the national championship. Don't say I want to finish seventh in the Big Ten. I don't know that. You always want to improve, so if you finish ninth, now you want to finish eighth or seventh or sixth or fifth or whatever.
"So I just say improvement. If you're improving every year, at some point you might be at that point where you can compete at the top level."
Kelsey inherited a program that was losing its top three scorers from the year before. Now, with the departures of Anya Covington, Jade Davis and Ashley Thomas, she faces the prospect of replacing three starters again next year.
As she looks to next season, about the only sure things are returning starters Taylor Wurtz and Morgan Paige. Beyond that, she sees a lot of competition for playing time, though she would love to see Cassie Rochel step up and claim one of the frontcourt spots.
"I don't have any lineups in mind," she said. "I like it that way. I think numbers breed competition and get people to understand if you can't do it there's plenty over here that want to."
Kelsey expects the five newcomers — freshmen Dakota Whyte, Nicole Bauman, Makailah Dyer and Shannon Malone and junior college transfer Daria Kryuchkova — to compete for playing time. But just because those players comprise her first UW recruiting class, Kelsey insists they will get no advantages over the holdover players she inherited.
"I won't treat the ones I recruited any different," she said. "I'll probably be harder on them if anything. Everybody's got to earn it. My message to the ones coming back, you don't want a freshman coming in and grabbing something you've been working hard for a year or two or three to get.
"But if they do, it's on them. Sometimes you're just not good enough. Sometimes you don't want to work as hard. You have to be real with it, you have to be honest. If the ones coming back don't work, that's their fault. The new ones will have a steep learning curve, so the returners have a leg up. So if they don't do it, don't come in here blaming me. That's on the players."
After her first season as a head coach, Kelsey also vows to do a better job of coaching and teaching.
"Some of the things I know now I wish I had done in the beginning," she said. "But you grow and learn and figure it out.
"You always learn as a coach. We're trying to learn things, too. There's an art to it, kind of a chess match, trying to figure out what they can do, what you would like to teach and what you can teach."
She also hopes to take a little coaching herself as she aims to adjust her demeanor during games and in the postgame news conferences.
"My parents would always say, 'Your facial expressions … you just don't look happy.'" Kelsey said. "Part of that is because of my high expectations and we just didn't compete in some of those games.
"I think I would do that a little bit different, not show my emotions so much. I could've been more patient. But that's my personality. I don't know any other way to be. I don't know how to fake it up there and lie and pretend.
"The whole point of playing and competing and working this hard is to win. I don't understand any other way."