Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, known as “coach Abe,” will take the mantle as the Knights 12th head coach, UCF Athletics announced Friday. The former Albany University head coach will take on the task of turning around the moribund women's basketball team, coming off a lack-luster 7-23 season.
Alongside Athletics Director Danny White and university President John C. Hitt, the former three-time American East Coach of the Year addressed media for the first time Friday.
“There's so many reasons I was looking at this job and this opportunity, you know, and it started with my philosophy,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “My philosophy is family first, academics second, basketball third … we’re going to lead with that philosophy all the time.”
Comparing her coaching style to Michigan State's Tom Izzo, because of her high-energy, team-oriented practices, Abrahamson-Henderson says the first step will be to empower the women on her team.
"[At Albany], we started from getting them to believe in themselves first, getting to know them, strengthening their minds and their spirits and their bodies and just everything," she said. " ... I mean, it wasn't get out there and play basketball and do Xs and Os. That's not what it was. I'm a big believer that women need to trust you all the time, so I've got to these young ladies to trust me ... "
After selling UCF for its facilities, infrastructure, campus and high-character group of women in the program, White called Abrahamson-Henderson's accomplishments “mind numbing” as he listed off her coaching accolades over her 11-year career— during which she's amassed a record of 241-108.
“I think we have one of the very most talented coaches in all of women’s basketball in the country,” White said. “Someone that built a dynasty at Albany and is leaving a dynasty that was built to continue to win. What she has done in her career is unbelievable … we’re really fortunate to have her here.”
Abrahamson-Henderson is coming into a program that has faced five-consecutive losing seasons, three of those coming after the Knights joined the American in 2013-14. She’s faced similar situations at Albany, and led three different teams to the NCAA Tournament and five teams to postseason action.
At UCF, she plans to implement the same up-and-down, fast-paced style of offense that helped make Albany a conference contender, while looking to add a full-court press on the defensive side of the ball.
“I've watched some film on them — so the moment I saw film I was like, 'Yes, I think we can play the way we’ve been playing at Albany,’" Abrahamson-Henderson said. “I would love to press ... and just wear people out. They’re going to have to buy in because that’s going to take a lot of work. Offensively, I want to run, I want to go.
Ultimately, Abrahamson-Henderson feels that for this team to achieve equal, if not better, success of her past teams, it’s all on the women buying into her coaching philosophy.
“I said this in the locker room. It's up to them if they want to buy in. I watched one game, and it was USF. I watched that game, because [USF was] the second best team in the league. … [UCF was] No. 15 in the country, and I watched them in the game here because I wanted to see them at home, and I watched this team, and I was like, wow, they're in this game the whole time, and it was the first half ... and then they kind of lost it in the second half.
"I see there so much potential there … I think we have the talent, I think we have the athleticism, I think we have a lot of key ingredients here.”
Hitt believes Abrahamson-Henderson's decision in joining the UCF program will be one of the best she’s ever made.
“Coach, I hope you look back on your years at UCF as my wife, Martha and I do — coming here is the best decision we ever made professionally and I hope you feel that way when you conclude your service here many years down the road," he said. " ... I hope you’ll agree coming to UCF was one of the best decisions you’ve ever made."
Abrahamson-Henderson coached at Albany University from 2010-16, compiling a 146-47 record in her stent as women's head coach. She helped lead the team to five NCAA Tournament appearances, four American East Tournament Championships and four American East Regular Season Championships.
She led Albany to an 83-13 record in American East play, capped off by a league record winning streak of 38 games. Her players have enjoyed individual success as well with four AE Player of the Year honors, four AE Defensive Player of the Year awards and one AE Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor.
Christopher Davis is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter @ChristopherDTV or email him at ChristopherD@CentralFloridaFuture.com