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.”


4 thoughts on “Belle Koclanes steps down as Dartmouth women’s coach”

  1. While this is an understandable change for both Coach Koclanes and Dartmouth, but it is still disappointing. Hopefully, things go well for the coach and her spouse (a former co-host of the Inside Ivy Hoops podcast!) in their new opportunity.

    Koclanes tenure shows how tough it is to succeed in one of the strongest conferences in the country. She has been a great role model for her players and always had her teams playing hard, but it has been difficult to consistently be in the top half of the league.

    With Columbia & Yale’s improved recruiting and national success added to traditionally strong programs at Harvard, Penn & Princeton, not to mention an always dangerous Cornell, Dartmouth and Brown – 2 rebuilding programs with new coaches & ADs – face some big challenges.

    Some questions with regards to Dartmouth Interim AD Peter Roby (D’79):
    Will he look to give Roland or Micir their first head coaching opportunity?
    Will he reach out for input from all-time greats Gail Koziara Boudreaux (who endows the women’s coaching position), Courtney Banghart (former Princeton HC, present UNC HC) and Coach Chris Wielgus (who, in the small world of Ivy athletics, coaches Penn AD Calhoun’s daughters at a Philly high school)?

  2. Two years ago, IHO mentioned the head coach of Maine, Amy Vachon, as a possible candidate to replace Courtney Banghart at Princeton.

    This year, Vachon’s Black Bears went 16-2 (13-2) to win the American East regular season championship. They are playing #4 Albany at home in the AE semis with a win giving them home court advantage against #2 Stony Brook or #3 UMass-Lowell.

    Vachon was named the AE Coach of the Year, the third time in her four full seasons in charge. In 4.5 seasons leading Maine, she is 93-41 overall (62-16 AE) with 3 regular season titles, 2 NCAA appearances and 2 AE tournament final appearances.

    She does have strong ties with Maine, playing there as a student and having family living nearby. However, if the Big Green want to get back to its historic place at the top of the Ivies, AD Roby might want to find out if she is interested in making a move.

  3. Another strong America East candidate, Caroline McCombs, is not going to Dartmouth. The Stony Brook head coach was hired to replace Jennifer Rizzotti at GW, today.

    McCombs won the AE Tournament getting SB into the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Last year’s team was 28-3 and 15-6 this year.

    (Back in December of 2018, her Seawolves beat visiting Cornell:

    She plated at Youngstown State from 1994-1998. Before her first head coaching job at Stony Brook she was an assistant coach at Valparaiso from 1999-2005, Pitt from 2005-2010, Northwestern from 2010-2012, and Auburn from 2012-2014.

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