February 26, 2021 

Belle Koclanes steps down as Dartmouth women’s basketball head coach

The former Richmond point guard will become the president of a leadership development non-profit

On Wednesday, Dartmouth announced that women’s basketball head coach Belle Koclanes would leave the program at the end of March to become the president of Strive: How You Lead Matters, a non-profit organization focused on leadership development.

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“This is an extremely unique opportunity for me to continue to share my passion for leadership development with an organization that inspired me to pursue a career in coaching,” Koclanes said in Dartmouth’s announcement. “… I’d like to thank the college, athletic department, and our Dartmouth women’s basketball family across every generation and roster for the opportunity to wear the Green. It was an honor to lead our women’s basketball program these past eight seasons.”

Strive is located in Wilmington, Delaware, and specializes in developing character-driven leadership—a type of leadership in which people model character traits and skills such as motivation, responsibility, and self-awareness for others—both within and outside sports. It offers sports and leadership development programs for athletes; leadership workshops for schools and community organizations; and the Strive Coaches’ Network, which gives coaches resources to help them develop players’ leadership skills.

As Koclanes alluded to in her statement, she has been involved with Strive for decades as a founding member of the organization’s advisory board and a coach at its Sports Challenge Leadership Academy in 2002—one year before she began her college coaching career. At Dartmouth, her team used the Strive curriculum to develop its leadership skills, and three of her former players have coached for Strive. “Strive is the first place I learned about intentional, inclusive, and authentic culture creation,” Koclanes said.

Koclanes was the fourth-longest tenured coach in the Ivy League at the time of her departure, amassing a 77-117 overall record and 34-64 Ivy League record in seven seasons of competition. (The Ivy League canceled winter sports in 2020-21, Koclanes’ eighth season at Dartmouth.) During Koclanes’ tenure, Dartmouth finished in the top half of the Ivy League twice, and nine players were named All-Ivy League. In 2017-18, she led the program to its first-ever wins against ACC and Pac-12 teams by beating Boston College and Colorado.

Dartmouth was Koclanes’ first head coaching position but her third stint at an Ivy League school, as she spent one season as the director of basketball operations at Columbia from 2003-04 and four seasons as an assistant coach at Pennsylvania from 2004-08. She then became an assistant coach at Old Dominion for three seasons and American for two before landing the Dartmouth job in 2013. At American, she implemented a year-long leadership development program in addition to her basketball-specific responsibilities.

As a player, Koclanes starred at the University of Richmond, where she was a point guard and three-year captain. Despite being listed at just 5’ tall, Koclanes was nominated for All-America honors and the Naismith Award for the national player of the year as a senior. She finished her career with 1,205 points and a program-record 793 assists—more than double the previous record of 381. She had 30 games with at least 10 assists and set the program’s single-season assist record each year of her career. After she graduated in 2002, she tried out with the Washington Mystics before playing for Panserraikos in the Greek Basketball League from 2002-03.

Koclanes leaves Dartmouth with a track record of leadership development, as 11 of her former players are now high school or college coaches. They include current Dartmouth assistant coach Lakin Roland as well as University of Chicago head coach Maria Williamson, who called Koclanes “one of the best leaders of people I’ve been around” in the announcement. Williamson added, “She leads and develops with empathy, an open mind, and a big heart. … I’m excited for her to lead and develop the Strive community in the same way.”

Yale head coach Allison Guth, who has coached opposite Koclanes for six seasons, also congratulated her “most respected colleague” and “dear friend” in the announcement. Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller wrote on Twitter of Koclanes, “Elite leader…have learned so much during our conversations. Strive is very fortunate.”

Dartmouth has not yet announced a replacement for Koclanes, either on a permanent or interim basis. Ahead of next season, the team is also expected to lose seniors Anna Luce and Elle Louie along with junior Asha Taylor, who announced in November that she would graduate in three years and transfer.

That trio and Koclanes seemingly leave behind a leadership void on a team that some thought could have made the 2021 Ivy League Tournament. However, with the leadership skills Koclanes taught, her players should be well equipped to press forward for 2021-22.

Written by Jenn Hatfield

Jenn Hatfield has been a contributor to The Next since December 2018 and is currently the site's managing editor, Washington Mystics beat reporter and Ivy League beat reporter. Her work has also appeared at FiveThirtyEight, Her Hoop Stats, FanSided, Power Plays and Princeton Alumni Weekly.

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