Katie Kolinski thrives as Syracuse’s first woman graduate assistant

first_img Published on March 7, 2017 at 12:38 am Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschweds Facebook Twitter Google+ Commentscenter_img UPDATED: March 7, 2017 at 12:40 p.m.There are days Katie Kolinski walks into the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center and can’t fathom she works there.She grew up a 15-minute drive from Syracuse University watching generational talents such as Eric Devendorf, whom she now shares an office with. She drove to New York City for the Big East tournament and watched Gerry McNamara, whom she now shares a staff with. She attended games in the Carrier Dome observing Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim, whom she now shares a bench with.But not once in Boeheim’s 40 years as Syracuse’s head coach did he have a woman graduate assistant. Kolinski is the first.“Every day, you know you’re going to come in and you’re going to learn something,” Kolinski said. “That’s the biggest thing for me. … If I’m not prepared then I might not be able to get a coaching job. I want to make sure I’m as prepared as possible.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAfter attending West Genesee (New York) High School, Kolinski joined SU as a manager for all four years. She became the Orange’s first woman head manager. Upon graduating last spring, Kolinski told Boeheim about her desire to stay as a graduate assistant. When she was younger, Kolinski looked up to former Tennessee women’s head coach Pat Summitt. She enjoyed her fiery manner on the sideline and appreciated how she maximized her players’ talent. Now she admires Nancy Lieberman, who’s become a mentor to her, and Becky Hammon. Both are assistant coaches in the NBA — Lieberman for the Sacramento Kings and Hammon for the San Antonio Spurs — and the first two assistants in NBA history.“Coach Boeheim needs to get a high-five and a hug,” Lieberman said. “I’ve known him for years … Coach Boeheim would not hire someone if they were not good.”According to a 2013 USA Today article, there have been only three woman assistant coaches in the college game . When Lieberman came through the coaching ranks, she didn’t have a role model to look to. She wants to be one for Kolinski. As they’ve gotten to know each other in the past couple years, Lieberman’s realized how sharp Kolinski is basketball-wise.Kolinski’s long-term goal is to become a men’s or women’s Division I coach. In the meantime, she’s learning from a head coach who’s unofficially won 1,003 games. With an increased role this year, she’s watched more film and helped train players more often. “She has a tremendous urge to learn about the game of basketball and coach the game of basketball as much as anybody that I’ve ever had as a manger,” Boeheim said, “and when she decided to be a grad assistant, we wanted her to work with us as a grad assistant.”Kolinski spends about 20 hours per week with the team. She’s been grouped with assistant coach Mike Hopkins and the centers for the past four years. This season, she spends her time before practice with freshman forward Taurean Thompson working on footwork and shooting.She has her own folder to compile clips of plays she wants to refer back to. As a manager, she watched film but didn’t have the same resources. She watches Thompson and analyzes every part of his game, from noticing how he crashes toward the basket for a rebound to how high he holds his hands on defense to timing help defense. While reviewing SU’s first matchup against Georgia Tech on Friday, Kolinski watched Thompson make two deflections on a single defensive possession.“Plays like this fire me up,” Kolinski said.Thompson entered the year lacking any experience in a zone defense. He played man-to-man full-time in high school. Kolinski said Boeheim’s 2-3 zone is simple, but it also takes time to master. Thompson doesn’t mind working on defense for 30 minutes straight in practice, Kolinski said, and his progression throughout the year makes her proud. She’ll clip together different segments of Thompson’s game so she or Hopkins can save for future reference. Kolinski values both the positives and the negatives. Players need to see their success to know what they’re capable of, she said. And when they don’t execute properly, she notes that, too.“She’ll be a reminder to me if I’m doing something wrong,” Thompson said. “Kind of like Hopkins’ extension a little bit.”Kolinski doesn’t just note what Syracuse is doing. She hopes one day, she’ll be in a position to make decisions. When an opponent runs a play she likes, she’ll write it down. She doesn’t want to be unprepared in the future.Throughout her five years at Syracuse, Kolinski’s been a part of two Final Four runs, a 25-0 start and a bevy of memorable, nerve-wracking wins. She’s witnessed Boeheim’s steady demeanor amid constant challenges each season. Her instructional design, development and evaluation master’s program will last until after next year, giving her another season to soak in as much as she can. Said Kolinski: “Not many people can get opportunities like this.”last_img read more