Sitting down with Coach Abe
By Aaron Cheris
In each of the past three seasons, the University at Albany women’s basketball team has won the America East Conference and made it to the NCAA Tournament. At the helm for all three titles was head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. Known simply as Coach Abe, she will soon begin her fifth season as head coach. The ASP recently sat down with Coach Abe as her team prepares to make a run at a fourth straight conference title.
Few people want to be coaches when they are growing up. What did you want to be?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a nurse like my mom. In college, I really wanted to run a fitness club, be an athletic director, something like that. When I went to graduate school, I was getting my masters in administration. I started coaching then, and it stuck.
How did you end up here at UAlbany? Why did you take the job here?
The reason I looked at this job is because my husband is from Brooklyn, N.Y. and I wanted to bring him back home. That was the number one priority because family comes first. Probably the second thing was familiarity with the America East, at that time it was the NEC, and I used to coach at the University of Maine with Joanne P. McCallie, now the head coach of Duke. I was familiar with the league.
In just your second season, you were able to lead UAlbany to an America East Championship. How were you able to turn this program into a winner so rapidly?
We empowered these young women to be strong and believe in themselves. We set some standards and stuck with them, had a really good philosophy, and they bought into it. Ebone Henry, Julie Forster, Keyana Williams, they bought into it and that’s big.
The 2011-12 season was the first time UAlbany had ever won the conference and made the NCAA Tournament. What was that year like from your point of view?
For me personally, I had won a lot of championships as a player and a coach. For me, really, it was really neat just to watch everybody else; to see Ebone Henry crying because this was her dream, to see Julie Forster in pure shock because she walked on the team, to see Keyana Williams because hardly anybody recruited her, to see some of my coaches who had never been able to accomplish that, and to see Dr. McElroy just beaming with pride.
In 2012-13, UAlbany went 16-0 in America East play. How was it for you to live up to the hype as defending champions and win again?
I don’t even think about [the hype], not even now. To be honest, I didn’t think about every single game that we go into as breaking a record. We just take it one game at a time because otherwise it’s overwhelming for anybody otherwise.
Going into last season, you lost some good players such as Forster, Henry, Williams, and Lindsey Lowrie. How were you able to replace all of them so quickly?
I thought that losing them was going to be hard in terms of leadership, not in terms of scoring or defense or rebounding or anything else. I thought that Margarita Rosario and Erin Coughlin and Sarah Royals took that role over easily. I train that every day for everybody to leaders, and it was their turn.
Now you’ve lost two starters in Tammy Phillip and Megan Craig, how do you replace them going into this season?
We’ve already done it. We’re playing by committee. We’re going to play like we did with Forster, Williams, and Henry played. We need to play faster. I think we played slower these past few years. Now we get to go back to the press and the run and jump fast pace that everyone likes. We weren’t able to do that with Craig in there. Now we get to go back to the style that they like to play. We’re going to be super up-tempo.
What should we expect to see out of the new players?
Bose Aiyalogbe redshirted last year. She’s like Tammy Phillip, but quicker and more aggressive. She is going to be a lot of fun to watch and she’s got four full years. Freshman Tiana-Jo Carter looks great. She’s going to be somebody that is one of the best five players that we’ve had that can score, she’s physical, and she’s athletic. She can score, and Shereesha just wants to hug her every day because she works really hard.