February 20, 2024 

The Long Island connection between Michigan’s Kim Barnes Arico and Lauren Hansen runs deep

Barnes Arico: 'I feel like I was her maybe 25 years before her'

Only the trained ear can detect the accent. Perhaps 12 years in Ann Arbor, Michigan has forced a linguistic evolution.

Continue reading with a subscription to The Next

Get unlimited access to women’s basketball coverage and help support our hardworking staff of writers, editors, and photographers by subscribing today.

Join today

But ask Kim Barnes Arico where she’s from, and the accent briefly reappears as she subconsciously merges ‘Long Island’ into one word.

Asked the same question, Lauren Hansen’s accent also emerges.

Long Island, New York, the 118-mile-long island to the east of Manhattan, is known for many things: its bagels, its pizza, its “aggressive” drivers and of course, its indistinguishable accent. 

But producing Power Five basketball talent? Not so much.

Pre-order ‘Rare Gems’ and save 30%

Howard Megdal, founder and editor of The Next and The IX, will release his next book on May 7, 2024. This deeply reported story follows four connected generations of women’s basketball pioneers, from Elvera “Peps” Neuman to Cheryl Reeve and from Lindsay Whalen to Sylvia Fowles and Paige Bueckers.

If you enjoy his coverage of women’s basketball every Wednesday at The IX, you will love “Rare Gems: How Four Generations of Women Paved the Way for the WNBA.” Click the link below and enter MEGDAL30 at checkout.

Yet in the University of Michigan’s women’s basketball program, there are not one, but two Long Islanders — Barnes Arico, who as the head coach took the program to the Elite Eight in 2022 and has led the Wolverines to 20 wins in 10 of her first 11 seasons, and Hansen, who made Ann Arbor the third and final stop of her college basketball career following a year at Auburn and three at Missouri.

It’s the unlikeliest of coincidences, not only because they’re both from Long Island, but because they’re both from what Barnes Arico calls “God’s country,” all the way out east. She grew up in Mastic Beach on the South Shore, roughly three-quarters of the way to the eastern tip of the island; Hansen grew up on the North Shore in East Setauket near Stony Brook.

Surely, Barnes Arico appreciates having another soldier who will go to war with her to defend the greatness of the New York bagel — “People don’t understand how good the bagels are on Long Island,” Hansen said; “It’s stereotypical, but it’s facts,” Barnes Arico added.

Their relationship runs deeper than just bonding over their love for bagels, though. 

Both come from households of Suffolk County police officers. Both followed unconventional paths to get to where they are now. Both perceive themselves as underdogs.

Barnes Arico is almost assuredly the only coach in America who’s a member of the Fairleigh Dickinson-Madison-to-NJIT-to Adelphi-to-St. John’s-to-Michigan pipeline.

In fairness, many coaches have carved out their own unique paths. But almost none have worked their way from a D-III school in New Jersey to one of the premier universities in the world.

The Next, a 24/7/365 women’s basketball newsroom

The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited and photographed by our young, diverse staff and dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives and projections about the game we love.

Hansen, too, has had a winding path, working her way from a high school known more for its lacrosse than its basketball and then to two other universities before choosing Michigan.

Maybe it sounds cliche — “Two people from the same area bond over shared experiences.” But the uniqueness of the connection between Barnes Arico and Hansen lies not just in the fact that they’re from the same area but that they’re from this same area that’s a virtual desert for Power Five college basketball talent. 

“I just think we have a sense of being from the same place and the same values and the same work ethic, the same mindset,” Barnes Arico said. “She has a little bit of a chip on her shoulder, and I think that’s her separator. 

“I would’ve liked to think when I was her age, I was probably pretty similar.”


Add Locked On Women’s Basketball to your daily routine

Here at The Next, in addition to the 24/7/365 written content our staff provides, we also host the daily Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast. Join us Monday through Saturday each week as we discuss all things WNBA, collegiate basketball, basketball history and much more. Listen wherever you find podcasts or watch on YouTube.

Samantha Prahalis-Holmes, now the director of player development at St. John’s, was one of the few Long Islanders to precede Hansen’s journey to Power Five basketball, playing at Ohio State before a stint in the WNBA. She later coached Hansen during her junior and senior seasons at Ward Melville High School.

Prahalis-Holmes grew up in Commack, about 15 miles southwest of Hansen’s hometown and encountered the same challenges as a basketball player on Long Island.

“It was definitely not a common thing for someone to be super interested in basketball, especially a girl in the town of Commack,” she said. “I was definitely on my own a little bit.”

Lauren Hansen talks with Samantha Prahalis-Holmes, her head coach at Ward Melville High School. Credit: University of Michigan Athletics

For her, and later for Hansen, it took that extra effort to gain exposure and grab the attention of college coaches. Both wound up playing for Exodus NYC on the EYBL circuit, but it took countless drives of more than an hour from eastern Long Island to Queens or Manhattan so they could put that extra work in and gain that extra exposure.

“If you wanted to make a name for yourself,” Prahalis-Holmes added, “you kind of had to go outside your box or comfort zone.”

That was particularly important for Hansen, who Barnes Arico referred to as a “small town little redhead.” But Barnes Arico was also out recruiting her from the very beginning. She could connect with Hansen’s story, her upbringing and their shared experiences. Even though she was a shorter guard (now at 5’9, she’s the shortest player on Michigan’s roster by three inches), what she lacked in height she made up for in grit and tenacity.

“You always felt a little bit like an underdog,” Barnes Arico said of growing up as a basketball player on Long Island. “I think Lauren probably always felt that too of, ‘I’m an underdog. I didn’t come from everything. I came from an area where it doesn’t have a lot of players. I always had a little something to prove. I’m tiny. I just have to work harder than everybody else.’ … Lauren has that chip, and Lauren has that ability. She’s a gamer.”

But Hansen chose to play at Auburn out of high school and then at Missouri after she entered the transfer portal following her freshman season. When she entered the portal again as a grad transfer last spring, Barnes Arico had one more chance to bring her on board.

Ultimately, Hansen said, that Long Island connection made the difference.

“Every single time that was meaningful to me, especially the last time,” she said. “I just think you kind of understand each other in a way you can’t really re-create anywhere else.” 

Lauren Hansen with Kim Barnes Arico during her recruiting visit on April 17, 2023. Credit: University of Michigan Athletics

The Next and The Equalizer are teaming up

The Next is partnering with The Equalizer to bring more women’s sports stories to your inbox. Subscribers to The Next now receive 50% off their subscription to The Equalizer for 24/7 coverage of women’s soccer.

By choosing to play at Michigan, Hansen also had the chance to play a game in New Jersey at Rutgers, the closest she’d ever played to home since starting her college career.

When the Wolverines made the trip to Jersey Mike’s Arena on Jan. 21, Hansen made sure to leave her mark, scoring 12 points — including the game-sealing 3-pointer — to help Michigan beat the Scarlet Knights, 56-50, in front of 15 to 20 family and friends.

“It meant a lot to me,” Hansen said. “I had a whole bunch of people come that have never really gotten to see me play in person. … Icing on the cake was that we did get the dub, so it was just a really cool moment for me.” 

Hansen’s done her part overall this season, averaging 11.6 points per game and turning into a second scoring option for the offense behind junior guard Laila Phelia

It’s been an up-and-down season for the team as a whole, after Barnes Arico needed to replace nearly 60% of her offense from last season. Still, at 16-11, Michigan has a shot at reaching the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in Barnes Arico’s tenure.

If that happens, it’d be Hansen’s first time ever playing in the Big Dance. Having the chance to share that experience with her coach, who understands better than anyone just how improbable it is for a girl from eastern Long Island to be in an NCAA Tournament, would surely make the arduous journey all worth it.

The more Barnes Arico’s thought about it, the more convinced she’s become that she is, in fact, coming as close to coaching a younger version of herself as she ever will in her career. 

“I feel like I was her maybe 25 years before her,” she said. “If anybody ever said I’d be at the University of Michigan and the head women’s basketball coach at one of the most prestigious universities in the world, people from my neighborhood probably would’ve been like, ‘No way.’ I think that’s probably the same for her.

“I just have this level of respect and understanding of where she comes from. It’s a connector. We’re really connected, like deeply connected on another level.”

Written by Eric Rynston-Lobel

Eric Rynston-Lobel has been a contributor to The Next since August 2022. He covered Northwestern women's basketball extensively in his four years as a student there for WNUR and now works as a sports reporter for the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.