Kent State basketball getting back on track

Matt Lofgren

A little more than a month after the news that 23-year head coach Bob Lindsay wouldn’t receive a contract extension, athletic director Joel Nielsen announced the hiring of Danielle O’Banion as the new women’s basketball coach.

Drawing comparisons to the electric hiring of head football coach Darrell Hazell, O’Banion brings a big presence to the team, Nielsen said.

“I think she has a lot of the same qualities and traits as coach Hazell,” Nielsen said. “That came out very early on in the interview process, also what we heard from some of her references and people that know her quite well, there were a lot of similar comments that were made about her that were made about Darrell.”

O’Banion brings 11 years of assistant coaching experience and four years of playing experience as a shooting guard on a nationally ranked Boston College team. While serving as an assistant coach at Minnesota, O’Banion was part of a staff that led the Golden Gophers to two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances and one Final Four appearance.

O’Banion acted as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator for four years at Memphis, which signed three nationally-ranked recruiting classes during her tenure.

“Danielle possesses the characteristics we look for,” Nielsen said. “Not only as an institution, but as a department. She’s a very driven person.”

Returning players Diamon Beckford and Trisha Krewson both said they were “encouraged” by O’Banion’s belief in winning immediately.

“I definitely think that that was one of the things that separated her from the other candidates,” Beckford said. “A lot of the candidates were talking about, you know, the three to five year program, not next year but four years from now they’ll be good for two years.”

“For us seniors, we want to be good next year she said she’ll do everything it takes for us to have a successful season next year and definitely appreciate that she cared about us,” Beckford said.

O’Banion emphasized getting the program back on track with the current roster.

“I made it very clear that there’s no reason why we have to wait to be successful,” O’Banion said. “I think that’s only fair to them. They’re seniors next year and they shouldn’t be in a locker room where we’re prepping the youngsters to be great.”

When O’Banion took the podium, the entire team lit up with a big smile and a warm round of applause.

O’Banion took note of the reception.

“When you look at the roster, there is an opportunity to develop the talent that’s here and opportunity to almost immediately new infuse talent,” O’Banion said. “So that opportunity to develop players and to supplement or augment the roster is very appealing to any coach.”

As of now, O’Banion is working with the current staff of assistants to see who she likes. Between building her staff and gathering recruits, O’Banion said she already started getting recruits for next season.

“I want to make sure I emphasize recruiting is about relationships,” O’Banion said. “One of the things that drew me to Kent was the outstanding high school coaches and AAU coaches that do an outstanding job of cultivating the talent. I wanted to be in a situation as a first time head coach where I could stay local and take care of home.”

Her track record as a proven national recruiter confirmed Nielsen’s final decision, he said.

“Our women’s basketball team is going to flash forward,” O’Banion. “We are going to boldly pursue GREAT.”

GREAT is an acronym that O’Banion preached to the players she has met only twice. It stands for: Gritty, Respectful, Enthusiastic, Accountable and a roster full of team-oriented players.

“I was so blessed to be coached by Coach Danny,” Memphis guard Brittney Carr told “I’m not sure I would be pursuing a pro career in basketball if I hadn’t had her direction over the last four years. She pushed me when I wanted to be lazy. She challenged me and taught me how to still perform on the days I had the ‘I don’t feel like it’ attitude. I wish her all the best because she deserves it. Kent State is very lucky to have a new head coach that is so knowledgeable and passionate.”

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected], or on Twitter at @MLofgrenDKS.