Our latest Ivy hoops roundup features critical hires amid new starts for Harvard and Yale women’s basketball, an especially promising recruiting class for the Princeton women, some big men’s graduate transfer losses and more:
Princeton women introduce No. 19 class of recruits
Princeton women’s basketball announced what ESPN.com deemed the No. 19 recruiting class in the nation:
“We are thrilled to welcome Cy to the Columbia women’s basketball family,” coach Megan Griffith said. “Her strong background in leadership development and firsthand experience as an Ivy student-athlete are unmatched. I am confident she will make an immediate impact on our program.”
To put things into an Ancient Eight perspective, it took 29 days for Princeton to hire Carla Berube after Courtney Banghart left for North Carolina and 28 days for Brown to replace the departed Sarah Behn with Monique LeBlanc. Looking at this year’s national coaching carousel, the Big Green now find themselves with the longest coaching search in the nation.
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.”
The Ivy League on Friday announced an initiative including all 16 men’s and women’s basketball programs expressing commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Called “Ivy Promise,” the initiative comes with a message from the 16 women’s and men’s basketball head coaches:
We have heard our student-athletes’ and communities’ call to action. The anger, disappointment and hurt felt across our country in recent weeks has been eye-opening and inspired important conversations in our communities. This is how we will stand together to proceed forward on the path of making progress for humanity. This is our promise.The Ivy Promise represents the Ivy League basketball coaches’ commitment to the Black Lives Matter movement. While individually our platforms are influential, combined our platforms can be a catalyst for change. We are committed to achieving reform. We will stand against inequality and discrimination until all people are afforded the same opportunities in wages, healthcare, housing, education, and criminal justice. Together we will stand for justice, educate the people, and support our communities.Our initial action items as a league are as follows:
As the Head Coaches of Ivy League Basketball, we will use our status and privilege to be vocal advocates for equality for all.
When possible, our programs will buy from local black and minority owned businesses to help uplift our communities economically and decrease the wealth gap.
Our coaches and student-athletes will not only participate in All Vote No Play on November 3, but also use our voting power in local and state elections because that is where topics like criminal justice reform begin.
We will use our games on MLK Day and during Black History Month in February to avidly celebrate Black history and Black excellence.
Each Ivy League basketball team will donate to and volunteer with the local organizations that are working to address the specific needs of our community.
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.
Seventh-year head coach Belle Koclanes announced the upcoming schedule for the Dartmouth women’s team on Tuesday. Preparing to earn its first-ever appearance in the Ivy Tournament, the team’s 13-game nonconference slate is heavy on regional opponents, but light on teams from last year’s postseason.
The Big Green will take on fellow New Englanders Vermont, Merrimack, Fairfield, Maine, UMass-Lowell, New Hampshire and Boston University. While most are familiar foes, this year’s contest with Merrimack will be a first, as the Warriors make the jump to Division I.
Dartmouth will visit Loyola (Chicago) and Northwestern in early December, as a homecoming trip for senior guard Annie McKenna of nearby Elmwood Park. The Wildcats, coming off a successful season that ended as runner-up in the 2019 WNIT, are one of three non-Ivy teams that played in the postseason. The other two are MAC champion Buffalo and America East title-holder Maine, both making it into the NCAA Tournament.
The Brown men’s team officially hired Cooper Handelsman as an assistant coach and Sam Hershberger as its Director of Basketball Operations. The Handelsman hiring was first reported at HoopDirt.com and later noted in IHO’s June 6 roundup.
Handelsman was a point guard for Kenyon College (2011-2015), before spending the 2015-2016 season as Lehigh’s video coordinator. He has been with the Hoop Group since the end of that season, and has been Director of Hoop Group Elite for the last two and half years. Hershberger, a four year member of the Elon basketball team (2012-2016) spent 2017-2019 as a student manager at the University of Florida while he obtained his Master’s in Applied Physiology and applied Kinesiology.
Following a 11-plus week paid suspension, Auburn University reinstated former Penn assistant coach Ira Bowman to his similar position on Saturday afternoon. The 1996 Ivy League Player of the Year was suspended by Auburn just before the SEC Tournament, after former Penn coach Jerome Allen testified that Bowman was involved in a scheme resulting in bribes by Florida businessman Philip Esformes to get his son, Morris Esformes, on the basketball roster for the fall of 2015.
Sam Blum of AL.com wrote that an Auburn athletics spokesman confirmed the news but did not have the results of the school’s investigation or information regarding the reasoning for Bowman’s reinstatement. AL.com has filed an open records request to obtain this information. Bowman returned to his reported $250,000 a year job, just in time to help with one of the biggest recruiting weekends in program history.
Kevin Bonner, Penn’s senior associate athletic director, governance and administration, did not respond to an email from IHO regarding the reinstatement, the Auburn investigation or any Penn investigation of Bowman.