Kristin Cole didn't hit the gym right after she was born. It just seemed that way.
"My dad was a coach, and my older brother played, so from the very beginning, it seems I was at the gym," says Cole, who was recently named the UNH Wildcats' new head coach of women's basketball. "I like to joke that I went from the hospital to home to church and then the gym."
It's easy to see why she feels that way. Her father, Larry Knapp, was head coach at Santa Barbara High School in California where Cole grew up. Her brother, Jon Knapp, played for his dad in high school, and later played at Columbia University.
With all that basketball in the Knapp clan, hanging around a gym was second nature, Cole says. By the time she was about 10, she knew coaching was in her future. But first she played the game. At Notre Dame, Cole earned four varsity letters and helped lead her team to its first two NCAA tournament appearances and three conference championships. She won a bronze medal as a member of the 1991 U.S. Olympic Festival Team and after college played pro ball in Sweden.
Her coaching credits are none too shabby, either: Ball State, one year, first place in the Mid-American Conference West Division and co-champion of the conference; University of Las Vegas, two years, taking the Rebels to their first postseason appearance in seven seasons; Auburn University, three years, a victory in the 1997 Southeastern Conference tournament; and Xavier University for the last five years, a stint that included two NCAA tournament appearances and three trips to the Women's National Invitation Tournament.
"Kristin has never been associated with losing," says Marty Scarano, UNH's athletic director. "Her record with every program, as an athlete and coach, is one of excellence and postseason opportunity."
Cole admits she'll have her work cut out for her at UNH: the squad was 9-20 last season, 4-12 in their conference. "Any time you take over a program, it's a challenge," she says. "I was left with a very talented group of young women—very good people—and very eager to have success, so I've inherited a good situation."
"We like her," says junior Danielle Flowers, co-captain of the team. "Change is good. It looks like she'll push us hard and part of us is saying, 'Great, that's good,' and part is saying, 'That's gonna be painful.' But that's what we need to do." She adds, "We had a tough season, but we're a good team—we lost a lot of close games. With Coach Cole, it'll be nice to have a new outlook, a new person to say, 'Hey, let's get it together.'"
"My philosophy is we'll work hard in all we do—we'll be a very disciplined team," Cole says. "We'll be prepared no matter who we play. We will outwork everyone."Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents