LONG BEACH STATE NOTEBOOK / JASON REID : Boychuk Learning Along the Way

For the most part, life at Long Beach State is pretty much as Dallas Boychuk expected.

The first-year women's basketball coach is pleased with her support and surroundings, but doesn't feel completely at home yet. She isn't ecstatic about the performance of some of her players, but she has been pleasantly surprised by others.

The team isn't playing as well as she would like, but it is competitive. All in all, life isn't bad.

"We're still not as consistent as I'd like to be," Boychuk said. "We still don't know where we're supposed to be every time we run a play, but everything is going pretty well."

Boychuk doesn't have much free time, but she didn't expect to. Trust us, rebuilding basketball programs isn't quick work.

"We're constantly reassessing and reassessing," Boychuk said. "You have to keep looking for ways to improve."

She's doing the same on a personal level, learning how to be a head coach the only way you can: on the job. It's an interesting, ongoing process, Boychuk said.

"We still have a lot of work to do, but it's coming along," she said. "It's just going to take time."

Boychuk has handled the gig well so far, studying tapes, devising game plans and recruiting. The latter is among her strongest attributes, and next year's class is shaping up nicely.

Boychuk is an even better salesperson than 49er officials had hoped. Long Beach Athletic Director Dave O'Brien knew she was very good, but even he's surprised.

"We feel great about Dallas," O'Brien said. "Dallas has had a tremendous impact both inside and outside the program.

"Dallas is very visible in the community and she is very approachable. She carries herself with a lot of dignity."

The players have adapted well to Boychuk's outgoing style and lofty expectations. Senior point guard Akia Hardy was worried at first, but her concerns were unfounded, she said.

"I really love playing for her," said Hardy, the 49ers' leading scorer. "This is her first year, so it's something new for her, but she's handling it as well as she can.

"She's definitely very intense. She expects a lot out of you."

Boychuk explained her agenda to the players soon after arriving from Purdue, where she was the lead assistant. She doesn't tolerate weak efforts in the classroom or on the court.

"Dallas has established herself as a disciplinarian," O'Brien said. "She is respected by the players and she is very committed to the academic process."

With Boychuk, the 49ers always know where they stand. Displeased with some of her players' commitment recently, Boychuk decided to reemphasize her beliefs.

"As a team, we didn't play hard in the first [halves] of a couple of games," Boychuk said. "I just wasn't happy with what I saw, and I told them. I want them to know that you have to play hard or you're not going to be in there."

No doubt about it, Boychuk is the boss.

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Making a point: Boychuk is pleased with Hardy's play.

Hardy leads the Big West Conference in assists, averaging 7.6. She leads the 49ers (3-4) in scoring, averaging 15.6 points.

"She's playing well," Boychuk said. "She's definitely a leader on our team."

Scoring is fun, but Hardy understands what her main job is.

"Sure, I like to score, but I want to get the ball to my teammates," she said. "That's what really makes me feel good."

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Simple formula: James Cotton, leading scorer on the men's basketball team, doesn't expect Long Beach to play another game like it did against Miami of Ohio.

Miami defeated Long Beach, 69-62, in overtime Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl Classic despite shooting only 27%. Cotton said Long Beach knows what went wrong and how to prevent a relapse.

"It wasn't that we didn't play hard, we did," Cotton said. "We know what we have to do. We just have to hit our shots and free throws and we'll be fine."

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