It takes just three words to know what UCF’s new women’s basketball coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson is all about.
Family. Academics. Basketball.
In that order.
The backbone of her coaching philosophy was mentioned often during her introductory press conference on Friday at the Wayne Densch Center for Student-Athlete Leadership. And it’s part of what brought her here to UCF.
“We’re going to lead with that philosophy all the time, and going through this [hiring] process, it is exactly the same thing that Danny (White) was saying the whole time,” she said. “It kind of rang a bell, and I was like, ‘This is a good fit.’”
Abrahamson-Henderson’s philosophy stems from the lessons she learned while playing at Iowa under Basketball Hall of Fame head coach C. Vivian Stringer.
It’s a system that works for her. During her coaching career over the last two decades, she has helped three different teams reach the NCAA Tournament and five programs reach postseason play.
At her most recent stop at Albany, she led the Great Danes to a combined nine America East Conference tournament and regular season titles. Her Albany teams recorded five 20-win seasons en route to five-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including the program’s first bid in 2011 and its first NCAA Tournament victory in 2016.
“I think we have one of the most talented coaches in all of women’s basketball in the country, someone that built a dynasty at Albany and is leaving a dynasty that was built to continue to win,” UCF vice president and director of athletics Danny White said. “What she’s done in her career is unbelievable, and everything I learned about her from people that know women’s basketball really well, she’s as high level of a coach as there is, and we’re really fortunate to have her here.”
Abrahamson-Henderson believes success comes from empowering her student-athletes as women, not just players. Self-confidence will lead to results.
“We’re going to keep empowering them as women, and educate them and… make them feel really good about who they are, and being a part of this program, and be proud to walk around,” she said. “When they leave this university, they look back and say, ‘I loved my basketball career; I loved Coach Abe.’”
Then, without missing a beat, her wit lightened up the standing-room only assembly hall.
“And maybe in the future somebody is rich and they have a house with a pool that I can come swimming at.”
Although it has been a whirlwind week for Abrahamson-Henderson, she has already started to watch film on the Knights. She is excited by what she saw and believes she can run her style of play: pressing and wearing out opponents.
She knows she must earn the team’s trust and get them to buy into the process, but once they do, she believes there’s no limit to what the Knights can achieve.
“I think we have the talent. I think we have the athleticism. I think we have a lot of key ingredients here. We’re just going to take one day at a time,” she said. “We’re going to enjoy the journey. We’re going to work really hard. We’re going to bond really well, and that’s just kind of how I do things.”