Former Great Dane Adjusts to New Role from the Sidelines
Erin Coughlin was a four-time America East Tournament champion as a player for the University at Albany. And as a co-captain a year ago, she helped the Danes upset the Florida Gators in the NCAA Tournament, the first win for the program at the Division I level. But one year removed from her dream-like senior season, Coughlin craves another title.
Except for this one, she will have to witness it from the sidelines.
Coughlin, who graduated in May 2016 with an English degree, is currently in her first season as a graudate assistant with her former team. So far, Coughlin is embracing every aspect of her new role on the Great Danes coaching staff. “It’s a different role being on the sidelines,” Coughlin said. “I’m watching thins more, I have to see things and learn how to explain them to people as opposed to being able to do it myself. It’s definitely a different role but I’m enjoying it. I love being around the team and of course the sport.”
Not only has Coughlin had to adjust to the transition from player to grad assistant, but also a different system under a new coaching staff highlighted by first-year head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee (Coach Mac), who joined the Great Danes after three seasons as head coach of the University of Pikeville, a private liberal arts school in Kentucky that competes in the Naional Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
“It was a lot to learn but I feel like you just have to take it one day at a time. Mostly going from player to G.A. I had to make sure to tell our teammates that we aren’t teammates anymore,” Coughlin said. She added, “We’ve still known each other for so long so it’s different taking on that role. My relationships with them, it’s gone so smoothly we’ve all handled it really well.”
“They’re definitely different but they both bring a lot of great things to the table,” said Coughlin when asked about the coaching styles of former head coach Katie Abraham-Henderson and Coach Mac. “They bring in the same type of fast-paced type of game. They really want everyone to score and really trying to develop shooters from players that may not have shot as much in the past.”
Despite the losses of Coach Abe, who left for a head coaching gig at the University of Central Florida, and Shereesha Richards, UAlbany’s all-time leading scorer now playing professionally in Spain, some things have stayed the same: the stellar play of senior guard Imani Tate, one of Coughlin’s best friends on the team.
“Imani has always been someone who leads by example. Imani is a winner, Imani is a gamer. If I had to pick anyone to be on my team, I would always want Imani,” Coughlin said. “You cant tell someone to be a leader without having that drive and the way she’s able to lead because you can see every day she wants to win. She’s going to put everything she has into winning.”
Despite taking a step back to the departures of Coach Abe and Richards, the Danes have Coughlin believing they have what it takes to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive season.
“I definitely think they can achieve that goal. This team is so talented. They are a wonderful group of women. They work so hard in and out of the gym,” Coughlin said. “This team knows how to win. The people who have returned, they only know winning. The seniors have three rings, the juniors two, sophomores one, and the freshman coming in- they can see the drive. They can see what we’ve built here as a program and they build off that so I think this team can still pull it off for sure.”
When she’s not on the basketball court, Coughlin is working on earning a master’s degree in secondary education. She said she enjoys student-teaching and working with students. Regardless of what the future holds for Coughlin, UAlbany and the sport of basketball will always hold a special place in her heart.
“I love the sport. I’ve been around it my entire life and it’s brought me to so many great places and producer so many great opportunities that I’m not really ready to let it go completely,” Coughlin said.
“I have another year left in my program so I’m hopefully going to be around for a little bit and we can see where it goes from there some way or another. I don’t know if I can go cold turkey, that’s for sure.”
Every year Coughlin has been a member of the team, she’s won a conference championship. So it’s fair to suggest that UAlbany agrees and hopes she can stick around a little longer before moving on to the next stage of her life.