Kent State Announces New Women's Basketball Coach
Former Memphis associate head coach becomes the fifth coach in program history.
Kent State University Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen has announced the hiring of Danielle O’Banion as women's basketball head coach. O’Banion takes over as the fifth head coach in the 37-year history of Kent State women’s basketball after spending the last four seasons on staff at Memphis.
“Danielle possesses the characteristics we look for, not only as an institution, but within our department,” Nielsen said. “She's a very driven person and someone who’s very confident in her abilities. Her reputation as a winner and a proven national recruiter are sure to bring energy and success to our women’s basketball program.”
An 11-year coaching veteran, O’Banion takes over the Kent State program following her four-year stint in Memphis, including the last two as associate head coach. Owning the reputation as a proven national recruiter, she served as designated recruiting coordinator for the program, helping the Tigers ink three nationally-ranked recruiting classes. The highly touted classes fostered by O’Banion have lived up to their billing on the court as well guiding the program into the postseason each of the last three years.
With her guidance, Memphis has accomplished just as much in the classroom during her tenure. The program has graduated 29 consecutive seniors from its roster, not including the five-member class of 2012 (two of which already have their respective degrees). Just this last fall, six student-athletes from the team achieved a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
“I hold the responsibility of representing the Kent State community in high regard, and I am eager to help young people realize their dreams in the blue and gold,” O’Banion said. “I could not be more excited to be here. I want to thank University President Dr. Lester Lefton, Provost Todd Diacon, Director of Athletics Joel Nielsen and sport supervisor Tom Kleinlein for giving me this great opportunity.”
Classroom success and deep runs through the postseason are nothing new to the Arlington, Va., product. In 10 years as a collegiate coach, she has been on staff for nine postseason teams, including a Final Four and two Sweet 16 berths while on staff at Minnesota from 2003-07. In addition, she has been a part of two other NCAA appearances with the Golden Gophers in 2006 and at Harvard in 2002.
The 33-year old first joined the staff at Memphis in 2008 and was then promoted to associate head coach in 2010. During her time on the Tigers’ bench, she helped head coach Melissa McFerrin put the cornerstones in place for three straight 20-win and postseason squads, signing 15 players over two years. Those players helped Memphis to the finals of the 2010 Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) and in to field of the 2011 and 2012 WNIT each of the last two seasons.
In addition to serving as the Tigers’ recruiting coordinator, O’Banion coached the perimeter players and directed the Memphis defensive attack with a pressure-oriented, full-court defense that quickly became the calling card for the program. Under her watch’ the team has averaged more than 11 steals per game the last three years, including a league best 11.8 spg in 2011-12 when the Tigers also led Conference USA with more than 20 forced turnovers per contest.
O’Banion also assisted in the development of guards Brittany Carter and Ramses Lonlack. Carter is currently in the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun training camp following a three-time first team All-C-USA career that was capped off by a Lowe’s Senior CLASS Second-Team All-America selection. Meanwhile, Lonlack was named the 2012 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year.
Before making her way to Memphis, O’Banion spent the 2007-08 season coaching at her alma mater, Episcopal High School in Virginia, where she was inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009. Prior to her return to her alma mater, she spent five seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota. Her time with the Golden Gophers marked her first opportunity to work alongside Coach McFerrin. Together, they coached the Minnesota guards, most notably WNBA All-Star and Kodak All-American Lindsay Whalen. The Gophers appeared in the postseason all five seasons of O’Banion’s time in Minneapolis, highlighted by a 2004 NCAA Final Four and two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances. O’Banion also served as the team’s academic liaison at Minnesota, helping to establish women’s basketball as the Big Ten leader in Academic All-Big Ten honorees.
O’Banion first entered the coaching profession in 2002 as an assistant coach at Harvard University where she helped legendary Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith’s Crimson squad win the Ivy League championship and earn an automatic NCAA tournament berth in her only season on staff.
As a student-athlete, she played for Boston College from 1997 to 2001. With O’Banion in the lineup, the Eagles captured the first two NCAA berths in school history in 1999 and 2000 advanced to the second round in both tournament appearances. A team co-captain as a senior, she earned a degree in psychology in 2001, receiving Big East Academic All-Star honors.
O’Banion is committed to growing and giving back to the basketball community. She is an active member of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) and serves on two WBCA award committees. A 10-year member of the Black Coaches and Administrators (BCA), O’Banion will serve as president of the nearly 6,000 member organization until 2013. She is also a proud graduate of the Achieving Coaching Excellence (ACE) program, co-sponsored by the NCAA and the BCA. O’Banion is the daughter of Julia and Delancie.