Posted 4/12/22

From Page B-1 Falls High School as a star basketball player with the intention of playing at the collegiate level. She decided to continue her academic and athletic career at the University of …

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From Page B-1

Falls High School as a star basketball player with the intention of playing at the collegiate level.

She decided to continue her academic and athletic career at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where she graduated with a degree in psychology in 1991. During her time at Stevens Point, she was an outstanding basketball player, compiling accolades that include being a four-year starter, selection as the Pointers’ MVP in 1991, All-WIAC selection in 1991 and honorable mention in 1990.

Abiad also set the NCAA Division III national record for three-point field goals made per game during the 1990-91 season with 3.85 per contest. She was also inducted into the UW-Stevens Point Hall of Fame in 2000, nine years after her graduation. She spoke about her basketball experience at Stevens Point.

“I loved basketball so much. I loved everything about it,” Abiad said. “When it was over, I missed it terribly. I missed the competitiveness, my coach, I missed putting on my uniform. I didn’t know if it would ever subside. I felt sad about not being able to play anymore.”

To stay involved with the game, Abiad began coaching to stay as close to the game as possible. For years, she wanted to be the one out on the court and not coaching from the sidelines. At some point, that wish changed – she wanted to coach instead of play.

“I don’t know if it took five or ten years, I don’t remember, but if you asked me, ‘Hey, you could be in great physical shape and go play games, or you can coach a team, which would you prefer to do?’ At some point, my answer flipped, and I said I would rather coach,” Abiad said. “I felt that I could do something for this team and the players and the staff. That I could create an atmosphere where we were competitive, and we could bring kids together from all walks of life.”

While it may seem obvious that Abiad was destined to be a college basketball coach, it wasn’t until her junior year at Stevens Point that she began thinking about coaching. During that time, the Pointers went through a coaching change and that completely changed how she viewed the profession.

“I had a new coach in my junior and senior year, and she made all the difference,” Abiad said. “She was the reason why I couldn’t get enough. She was a great strategic coach, she pushed us to the limit, she cared about us, it made me feel like – she encouraged me to continue and go coach somewhere. That created a path for me that maybe wouldn’t have existed if I didn’t play college basketball.”

After graduating from Stevens Point in 1991, Abiad began looking for Graduate Assistantships in the world of women’s college basketball. Her college coach told her that she wouldn’t get a head coaching job because of a lack of experience and that she needed to be looking for somewhere to learn and grow.

Abiad’s aforementioned degree in psychology meant that she would likely need a master’s degree to find a profession in the psychology field. Therefore, she began looking for open positions as a graduate assistant for college basketball programs.

One of the first postings she found was for women’s basketball at Indiana University, a historically dominant college basketball program that any young up-and-coming coach would do anything to find a way to get on that coaching staff as an assistant. Abiad recalled telling her college coach about the Indiana opportunity.

“She told me it was going to be very hard to get,” Abiad recalled. “She said, ‘Look, the amount of people that are going to want that job is astronomical. You need to keep looking but send your application to them.’” Approximately 10 days after sending her application to Indiana, Abiad called to confirm that they had received the application and then was given an opportunity to speak to the head coach. Abiad spoke about that magical phone call.

“I got through to him and as I was talking to him, he asked if I applied to go to school there,” Abiad recalled. “I told him I wasn’t going to school there if I wasn’t going to work with the basketball program. He asked if I wanted to come and speak about the opportunity in person and we set up a time to visit.”

When she got to the university, they spent the weekend talking basketball, looking at all of the basketball camps that were running there in the offseason and near the end of the visit, he pulled Abiad aside and made an offer.

“He said, ‘Hey, if you can get into school, you can have the job,’” Abiad said. “My college coach was so excited for me. It was the first job I applied for. I had tickets right behind the bench for those two years and I could almost reach out and touch Bobby Knight.”

Abiad said that those two years at Indiana University were so special, both in terms of what she learned, the experiences that she got and the doors that opened once she graduated two years later. She spoke about how having Indiana on her resume changed everything.

“I had a whole bunch of opportunities because I had Indiana on my resume,” Abiad said. “It just opened so many doors for me.”

After graduating from Indiana, she took a full-time job as an assistant at Eastern Illinois University where she worked from 1993-97, and then in 1997, she took a job with the Wisconsin Badgers women’s basketball team as an assistant and as the Badgers’ chief recruiter.

In her six years with the Badgers, Abiad helped bring in two top-10 nationwide recruiting classes before she departed in 2003. She left Wisconsin for her first Division 1 head coaching position at Cleveland State University with the women’s basketball program.

“It was great (to be a head coach), I had learned a lot of things I wanted to do and a lot of things I didn’t want to do,” Abiad said. “I gorged myself on stuff that I thought could work with our team. Then, I started to recruit kids that fit what I wanted to do.”

When Abiad was finally handed the keys to the metaphorical car, she continued to learn and study from legendary coaches like Bill Self and Pat Summit. Through her years in the college basketball arena, Abiad developed relationships with other coaches who helped her along the way.

“It was awesome to have those connections with other coaches,” Abiad said. “I didn’t know everything. It was certainly refreshing to hear what they thought. I went to the final four 27 years in a row for women’s basketball. I listened to speakers and being able to be a part of their practices, I learned a lot.”

During her 15 years as the head coach at Cleveland State University, Abiad led the Vikings to two Horizon League Conference championships and NCAA Tournament appearances in 2007-08 and 2009-10. Her success at the school during those 15 years made her the winningest coach in program history with 206 victories.

“It was a dream come true (to be in the NCAA Tournament),” Abiad said. “When I took over Cleveland State, they only had one winning season in like 25 or 30 years. When I came in and said, ‘I want to go to the NCAA Tournament, I don’t think people believed it.’ When it finally came together, it was great. It’s hard to get off the bottom, but when you do, there is such a feeling of accomplishment.”

After having essentially unparalleled success at Cleveland State for 15 seasons, Abiad realized that it was likely as good of a time as any to walk away from head coaching after the 2017-18 season. She spoke about turning the page on that chapter of her life.

“It was sort of the perfect storm for me and my family,” Abiad said. “Things were changing at Cleveland State, even with the success we had, I wasn’t able to get out of there and get another head coaching job.”

Some of the things that were changing at Cleveland State included rules regarding children and where they were and weren’t allowed to be. Earlier in her tenure at Cleveland State, Abiad was able to have her daughter with her most of the time. When she had her second daughter, those rules began changing and suddenly, her time with her children had been significantly reduced because of her career.

“Some of the things that I had enjoyed with my older daughter, she traveled with me 365 days a year,” Abiad said. “By the time my second daughter came around, that was not the case. There were rules about no kids can travel with you, no kids in the gym, no kids can be with recruiting, no kids can be in your office.”

Those rule changes led Abiad down a path that essentially made her choose between her family and her career, and family was something that she just wasn’t going to sacrifice for a coaching job – no matter how much she loved basketball.

“I didn’t want to choose between my family and my career, but I ended up having to, I didn’t feel like it was much of a choice,” Abiad said. “I said to my husband, before my daughter is 12 years old, I am not going to be doing this anymore,’ and she was eight at the time. I got a different job that year.”

When reflecting on how much of her time was taken by the head coaching job, she spoke about how severely limited her family time was.

“The kids on the team got more attention than my children, 100%,” Abiad said. “It wasn’t even close. I was with them way more than I was with my children. I had said several times, ‘When are we going to start doing things for our kids instead of everybody else’s kids?’ But that didn’t make it any easier. We had to take a leap of faith.”

In total, Abiad spent 27 years coaching women’s college basketball, a job that had her working seven days a week for nearly 365 days a year. To say that it was both exhausting and exciting for her would be an understatement.

After landing the job with the WIAA as an Assistant Director in April 2018, Abiad developed a newfound balance between the amount of time she spends with her family and the amount of time she spends at work.

Abiad thoroughly enjoys her job with the WIAA, how it keeps her close to sports and student-athletes, and especially the freedom that it gives her with her young family at home.

“When we were looking for houses up here, I noticed that one of them had a boat slip,” Abiad said. “My husband said, ‘Why do we need that? We’re not boaters.’ I told him we needed to find something because we’re not coaches anymore. We needed to find places to put our energy and we found that we can put all of our energy into what our kids are doing. We can be parents who live through our kids.”

Kate Peterson Abiad coaches from the sidelines during a game at Cleveland State University.

Photo courtesy of Cleveland State University