Balance for Sierra College women's basketball coach Brandie Murrish comes in the form of a pair of 3-footers.
Four-year-old twin sisters Brekyn and Payton fill a room with their giddy shrieks as they offer their mom the mother of all bear hugs. The best nights are capped when they tell Murrish in union: "Good win, Mommy!"
Burnout is often an unwanted passenger in a coach's journey, but Murrish won't have it. She has family and a full schedule of cross-fit training to burn off excess anxiety, all while still leading her team with authoritative, often red-faced tones.
Murrish has the Wolverines, thinned by season-ending injuries to two key players, in the school's sixth consecutive Northern California Regional final. Tonight, Sierra (23-7) faces Fresno City (29-3) for a fifth straight postseason.
"The twins, they change everything," Murrish said Thursday at practice. "They give me a totally different perspective. Being a parent has made me a better coach, to be more patient, but to still get the most out of each player. You just don't want to let this job consume you."
It consumed the coach whom Murrish replaced and for whom the Sierra gym floor is named. Roz Goldenberg poured every ounce into games during her decorated 15 seasons at Sierra. Doctors finally told Goldenberg in 2006 she could step away from coaching and live a better, longer life, or she could die on the sideline. Her blood pressure soared off the charts during games in part because of heart valve problems.
Goldenberg bowed out.
"Roz is a mentor," Murrish said. "She supported me from the start. She handed off the reins to me, a legend. It's nice to have her here at games."
Goldenberg, whose 36-1 Sierra team in 1999 rolled to a state championship, filled her competitive void with worldwide travel and teaching health courses at Sierra. She urges students to eat well, exercise and be well and takes her own advice.
"I've changed I'm a vegan!" a vibrant Goldenberg said in her office, not too far from the gym. "I'm feeling good. Going vegan has been great. I might even go to a little fish now."
Goldenberg said she is delighted with what Murrish has accomplished.
"She was the perfect coach to take over, and she's done an amazing job," Goldenberg said. "That program was my baby. I do miss basketball, but I'm so happy for Brandie."
Murrish said her current team has "the best chemistry of any I've coached." That cohesion has kept the Wolverines together, particularly after their best shooter, Dakota McLarnan, went down in November with a torn ACL. Weeks later, post Taylor Donnot was lost for the season with a broken leg.
The Wolverines absorbed the losses with balance. Guards Kirstie Williams (14.1 points), Joie Camalo (11.5), Michelle Walker (10.7), Kayla Reeves (9.3) and Ericka Magana (7.6) lead the team in scoring.
Forward Jasmine Shedrick scores 6.7 points and averages 5.8 rebounds.
Seeded third in the North, Sierra tied top-seeded Santa Rosa for the Big 8 Conference championship and beat Mendocino (89-67) and Ohlone (81-60) in the first two rounds.
In Reeves, Murrish sees a next-generation coach. Reeves is a team captain, imploring effort. She is the daughter of Tom Reeves, a longtime basketball coach at Placer High School.
"Coaching is my dream; it's in my blood," Reeves said. "I've got to have that instruction. I need that intense, in-my-face coaching, and that's coach Murrish. I feed off of it. I can't wait."