Belle Koclanes steps down as Dartmouth women’s coach

Belle Koclanes is leaving Dartmouth to become the president of a Delaware nonprofit focused on leadership development. (Ivy League)

Belle Koclanes is moving on.

After eight years at the helm of Dartmouth women’s basketball, Koclanes announced on Wednesday her departure from the program to become the President of Strive: How You Lead Matters, a Wilmington, Del.-based nonprofit.

“This is an extremely unique opportunity for me to continue to share my passion for leadership development with an organization that inspired me to pursue a career in coaching back in 2002,” Koclanes said in a statement posted to the Dartmouth Athletics, noting that three program alumnae who played for Koclanes, Nicola Zimmer ’14, Emily Slagle ’18 and Lakin Roland ’16 (an assistant under Koclanes since 2018) have all participated as young coaches in Strive’s foundational program, Sports Challenge.

“Leaving Dartmouth for Strive is an inside foot pivot,” Koclanes said.

Koclanes will stay on at Dartmouth until March 31 before beginning her new position. A national search for Koclanes’s successor will start immediately, the school announced.

Dartmouth went 77-117 (.396) overall and 34-64 (.347) under Koclanes starting with the 2013-14 season, when she took over for Chris Wielgus, who became the all-time winningest coach in 28 seasons across two stints leading the Big Green from 1976 to 1984 and 1993 to 2013.

The Big Green never won an Ivy League championship or made a postseason or Ivy League Tournament appearance under Koclanes, coming just short of the tourney with fifth-place conference finishes in 2018 and 2019. Still, the Big Green were typically strong defensively under Koclanes, and 11 of Koclanes’s former players are now high school or college coaches.

Dartmouth’s other assistant under Koclanes is Kelcie Rombach, who like Roland joined the staff in 2018. Past assistants under Koclanes include Princeton ’11 standout player and assistant coach Addie Micir, who is currently associate head coach at Lehigh, and Portsmouth, N.H. native Maria Williamson, who took over at Chicago last season after five years as an assistant at Loyola Chicago and saluted Koclanes in a statement Wednesday.

“Her focus on having a growth mindset, being solution-oriented, and positive motivates all around her to act in this same way,” Williamson said. It is unique, special and why Coach Belle’s impact at Dartmouth will be felt for a long time to come. I’m excited for her to lead and develop the Strive community in the same way.”

Yale head coach Allison Guth also applauded Koclanes in a statement.

“This is a bittersweet day as I congratulate someone who is most deserving of her exciting endeavor as the newest President of Strive,” Guth said. There is no doubt she will tackle this opportunity with the same passion and character as she did coaching her young women at Dartmouth.

Strive focuses on character-driven leadership by partnering with young people and adults nationwide in schools, athletic leagues and community organizations to develop leaders, according to the nonprofit’s website.

“I’d like to thank the college, athletic department and our Dartmouth women’s basketball family across every generation and roster for the opportunity to wear the Green,” Koclanes said. “It was an honor to lead our women’s basketball program these past eight seasons, and I look forward to celebrating our 18th championship in the very near future.”

 

Ivy League coaching carousel

After three years without any head coaching changes, things changed in a big way at the end of April.  Princeton’s Courtney Banghart left after 12 seasons and seven Ivy titles to rebuild the program at the University of North Carolina. The Tigers search lasted a month, ending with the hiring of former UConn guard and long-time Tufts head coach Carla Berube.

On the men’s side, the conference almost lost James Jones to St. John’s, but the Yale coach finished as the Red Storm’s runner-up.  Weeks later, Jones signed an extension that will keep him in New Haven until the end of the 2025-2026 campaign.  In May, Brown’s Mike Martin was reported to be at Holy Cross interviewing for the Crusaders job, but a probable extension kept him in Providence.

Several Ivy assistants made the jump to head coaching positions with Columbia’s (and former Harvard’s) Kenny Blakeney heading to Howard, Penn’s Bernadette Laukaitis returning to Holy Family, Brown’s Tyler Simms going to Clark, and Brown’s Sara Binkhorst moving to Wheaton.

In the off-season’s strangest coaching news, Dartmouth promoted assistant coach Pete Hutchins to associate head coach on March 19th, only to see him jump to an assistant coaching position at George Mason on May 2nd.

The complete list of changes, from 2018-2019 to 2019-2020, for all 16 Ivy teams are noted below.

Read moreIvy League coaching carousel

ICYMI: Catching up on the Ivy offseason

With teams a few short weeks away from actual games, here is a collection of off-season stories to catch up on before the start of the 2018-2019 season.

Read moreICYMI: Catching up on the Ivy offseason