ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – She’s already turned one program around, and now UAlbany women’s basketball coach is headed south to turn around another.
Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who coached the University at Albany women’s basketball team to five America East Tournament titles and the program’s first-ever Division I NCAA Tournament victory, has accepted the head coach position for women’s basketball at the University of Central Florida.
“I’m really, really excited to be here,” she said. “This has been really fast and furious.”
Coach Abe accepted the job at UCF on Friday just two weeks after she led UAlbany to an NCAA Tournament win.
When she arrived at the program six years prior, the Great Danes hadn’t put together a single winning season.
“The only way we could go was up,” Abrahamson-Henderson said.
And that was exciting for Coach Abe.
“I’ve been at so many places that we had to rebuild the program,” she said. “That’s all I knew.”
That’s what she plans to do at UCF. The Golden Knights program was 7-23 last year.
“I see there’s so much potential there,” she said.
But Coach Abe’s got her work cut out for her. UCF is in the American Athletic Conference where the University at Connecticut reigns supreme.
“We know UConn is the best basketball team in the country, but I always say, ‘If you want to be the best, you have to play against the best all the time see where your bar is,’” she said.
That challenge is one of the many reasons Coach Abe took the job. She’ll also get a significant pay increase almost doubling her annual salary at UAlbany.
“They’ve been awesome to me,” she said. “They did not want to let me go. They were kicking and screaming not to let me go.”
And why would they?
Abrahamson-Henderson adopted a losing program in 2010. In her first year, she led the Great Danes to their first winning season. In her second year, UAlbany won the America East Championship, which led to its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
The team has won four more conference championships, including at least a share of the regular season title in each of those years.
This season, Coach Abe led the Danes to their first ever NCAA Tournament win. Her teams combined go 146-47 overall and 83-13 in conference play.
She created a dynasty at UAlbany, so how do you replace the three-time America East Coach of the Year?
That’s the job UAlbany Athletic Director Mark Benson. He’s in Houston for the Final Four, but he spoke to NEWS10 ABC over the phone. He said the national search to fill the vacancy has already begun.
Benson said he expects a lot of interest in the position, and he said it will come down to the right fit – someone a lot like Coach Abe.
“She is developing strong, independent female student-athletes that succeed on the court, succeed in the classroom, and will be great leaders when they leave UAlbany,” he said. “So we’ll look for somebody that kind of fits that philosophy.”
Benson said they’ve identified about 60 candidates, and he thinks that number could increase as the week goes on.
He didn’t put an exact deadline on filling the position, though he said the school needs to be thorough to find the right fit.