New Coaches Introduce Themselves To Colgate Community

Steve Sheridan

In the land of collegiate coaching, job security is never the easiest thing to come by. While most of the players may stay in place for four years, coaches can come and go for various reasons; whether it be a few losing seasons, a better coaching opportunity or simply a need for some rest. A school such as Colgate is certainly not immune to such changes: in the past two years the school has had three different athletic directors alone and has also welcomed some new coaches to the Raider ranks as well. But while there are some new faces leading Raider teams this season, every one of them shares the same ultimate goal: to win.The most visible coaching change at Colgate last year was the departure of women’s basketball Head Coach Beth Combs for Northwestern University. Coming off the most successful season in school history, the team’s new head coach would surely be stepping into a situation where expectations were at an all-time high.Enter Kristin Hughes, the former women’s basketball coach and interim Athletic Director at Case Western Reserve, in Cleveland, OH. She will be the woman responsible for turning the team’s successful season into a winning program.”Colgate has a great program, and the fact that it’s Division I and now has scholarships made it very attractive for me,” Hughes said. “[Last season] is certainly in the back of my mind, but it’s a privilege to work with a group with such high goals.”Hughes is no stranger to winning. While at Case Western, Hughes amassed 120 victories in 11 seasons, making her the all-time winningest coach in the program’s history. The 1991 graduate of Elms College also helped her team advance to the NCAA Division-III Tournament for the first time in the school’s history, something that Combs did for the Raider women at the Division-I level last year. Hughes knows, however, that this is not a Division III school.”In some ways, the rules are very different,” Hughes conceded. “With regards to scholarships, it changes the way we recruit players. But at the same time, basketball is still basketball. Whether you’re coaching sixth grade or in the NBA, it’s the same game.”

Hughes will be helped along in her transition by her Case Western coaching staff, which followed her to Hamilton. Debby Ghezzi and Kamilah Cunningham, who have been on the bench with Hughes for the last four years, will once again be by her side this season. Hughes will also be joined by Angie Zeuch, a 2004 graduate of Case Western and one of the program’s star players. “[The coaching staff’s] goal was to come in and spend time with the players and learn more about them, and not have to do that with the members of the staff,” Hughes said. “We all know each other very well.”With her optimistic attitude and commitment to winning, Hughes is a perfect fit for Colgate. She will get her chance to prove that she belongs in late November, when the Raider women begin the defense of their first-ever Patriot League title.One Raider sport that is no stranger to coaching carousels is tennis. After head coach Bob Dallis resigned in order to move on to Dartmouth following the 2001-2002 season, the men’s and women’s tennis teams have had a new head coach every season – the seniors will be playing under their fourth coach in four seasons. The newest man to jump on the carousel is Patrick Fisher, who replaces the departed Ned Wheeler.”I think that with the new coaching staff, it’s tough,” Fisher admitted. “For whatever reason, it hasn’t worked out [in the past]. But the staff has worked hard, and I think the kids see it and feed off of it. There is still some learning to be done, but I think we work a lot harder than the team did in the past.”Fisher comes to Colgate from Western Michigan University, where he was an assistant coach. For Fisher, it was important to get experience as an assistant before landing a head coaching job.”[Being an assistant] prepared me for the day-to-day rigors [of being a head coach],” Fisher said. “You can’t be good only in coaching, but also with recruiting and administrative work as well. I don’t think people realize the amount of work that goes into it.”As an assistant, Fisher helped craft the Broncos into one of the top teams in the country – ranked in the top 75 in the nation – and he hopes to do the same in Hamilton. Fisher inherits a men’s team that lost four seniors to graduation and a women’s squad that graduated only one. Both teams will look to impress their new head coach beginning today, when the teams play in the Dartmouth Invitational.A little further from the spotlight, Greg Kruczynski was named the new head coach of the Raider women’s crew team. Kruczynski has plenty of coaching experience, having spent the last five years as an assistant coach at UMass-Amherst. Before that, he served as the head coach at Williams College for one year.In both of his stops, the Coast Guard graduate has experienced nothing but success. In Amherst, the Minutemen won Atlantic-10 conference championships in each of his five seasons, while at Williams, Kruczynski led a team that was one of four Division II/III teams chosen to race in the 1999 NCAA Championships. With all the triumphs behind him, Kruczynski looks for more accolades with the Raider women this season.”This the the first year that the Patriot League has sponsored a women’s rowing championship, so I’m excited,” Kruczynski said.” “I’ve had success in the Atlantic-10, but my primary focus now is on the Patriot League. It’s a great league and a great opportunity to coach at the Division I level.”One of the major surprises that Kruczynski has already experienced at Colgate is the excellence of the new Glendening Boathouse, which was completed in the Spring of 2004. This, coming from a crew program that isn’t nearly as big and well-funded as Kruczynski’s last coaching stop.”The new boathouse is gorgeous,” Kruczynski said. “Facility-wise, it blows UMass-Amherst out of the water. There, we had the pipes bursting [at the beginning of] every spring, but this is amazing.”Thanks to the cold weather, the women only participate in an abbreviated fall season. The season begins in the first week of October, with the Head of the Erie regatta.One Raider coach that was not behind the bench last year will also be returning to his usual perch, and that man is men’s hockey coach Don Vaughan. After spending one year as the university’s interim Athletic Director, Vaughan will return to the rink and the job he loves for his 12th season.”I think I most missed being around the student-athletes on a regular basis, just the chance to interact [with them] and make them better,” Vaughan said. “As an Athletic Director, you look at the coaches as your team, but it’s not the same.”Last season, the team won the ECAC regular season crown under interim head coach Stan Moore, who will return to his assistant coaching duties again this season. Vaughan believes that last year was a learning experience for both his players and his coaches.”It was interesting [for me] watching the games from a different vantage point,” Vaughan said. “I got to see the bigger picture, being removed from the day-to-day aspects of the game. [With the last-second change, the team] also learned a lot from adversity and how it could affect you positively or negatively. I think it made them better coaches and players, and they did a great job. It was a group effort.”Vaughan is eager to once again lead his team into another competitive ECAC season, as the teams looks to defend its ECAC regular season crown. The team begins its 2004-2005 season on October 8.Each of these coaches were welcomed (and in one case, welcomed back) into the Raider coaching community, and now each of them will be expected to put forth quality teams in this and coming years. Because as every head coach knows, while a good year might give you some security, you could always be one bad season away from heading right back out the door.