Lady Lions Get Fresh Start With New Head Coach Carolyn Kieger
After a week-long wait since her hiring, Lady Lion fans finally got to meet the new head coach in charge of Penn State women’s basketball on Friday.
Carolyn Kieger comes to Penn State as the sixth head coach in program history. She’s held the position for just one other program, but her five seasons at Marquette took the team to new heights — including three straight NCAA Tournaments and the Golden Eagles’ first Big East title.
But Marquette wasn’t just any old university to Kieger; it’s her alma mater. The 35-year-old was a point guard for the Golden Eagles from 2002-2006.
“I always tell my players to goal set and have a plan for what you want your life to look like,” Kieger said. “And for me, it came down to being able to look myself in the mirror and going after my goals and my dreams that I’ve wanted since I was 12 years old. That’s to be on the highest stage and be surrounded by elite mentality, be at a place where we have a chance to win national championships.”
Convincing a coach to come from their alma mater isn’t an unprecedented move for Penn State.
Prior to leading Penn State wrestling to eight national titles in the last nine years, Cael Sanderson was the head coach of Iowa State, where he won four individual national titles as a student-athlete.
“Let’s be clear: It is my intention to follow in [Sanderson’s] lead,” Kieger said. “His program is a model for all programs in NCAA sports right now.”
The search that resulted in hiring Kieger didn’t take all that long. Coquese Washington, who was the head coach for the past 12 seasons, parted ways with the program on March 8. Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour and the search committee announced Kieger as the head coach less than four weeks after that.
Barbour said she heard from the student-athletes often during the search and that Kieger met the program’s “fit.”
“Everyone we discussed our fit with — and we’re talking about hundreds of people in the women’s basketball world — about this search had Carolyn Kieger on their list,” Barbour said.
While things will certainly switch up for a team that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in the last five years, the Lady Lions’ overarching style of play will remain consistent under Kieger.
Much like Washington, Kieger plans to employ an up-tempo style. The goal for her is to turn Penn State’s games into track meets.
“In terms of challenges, put your hard hats on because we might have a few turnovers to start with when we’re changing the pace a little bit,” Kieger said. “It’s going to be [a style] that our players are absolutely going to love to play, one you fans are going to enjoy to watch. Once we get it down, I think we’re going to be really hard to defend.”
The Lady Lions will also get a fresh look on the entire coaching staff. The team doesn’t have any assistants finalized yet, but it’s currently on the search for that group.
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As THON weekend approaches, a fundraising year like no other in THON history wraps up.
“Whether this team is a No. 3 seed or or a No. 4 seed, they’re going to have a real opportunity to be in the Sweet Sixteen. If you’re a Penn State basketball fan, that’s like the Final Four. That week of hype and attention gives a team a brand.”
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