After eight years as the Gail Koziara Boudreaux ’82 and Family Head Coach of Women’s Basketball at Dartmouth College, Belle Koclanes has announced her departure to become the President of Strive: How You Lead Matters, a non-profit organization located in Wilmington, Delaware, that is dedicated to spreading the power of character-driven leadership.
“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 back in 2002,” Koclanes said. “Strive’s culture and curriculum have been fully embedded in our Dartmouth Women’s Basketball experience and three of our alumnae, Nicola Zimmer ’14, Lakin Roland ’16 and Emily Slagle ’18, have all participated as young coaches in Strive’s foundational program, Sports Challenge. Leaving Dartmouth for Strive is an inside foot pivot.
“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, and I look forward to celebrating our 18th championship in the very near future.”
In just her second season (2014-15) at the helm, the Big Green posted a 14-14 record, the best mark for the team in six years. The 9-5 non-conference finish was also their best showing since the 2005-06 season, and the team jumped 137 spots in the RPI rankings. The following year, the Big Green had its best finish in conference play since 2009, going 7-7 to end the season in fourth place.
In 2017-18, Koclanes guided Dartmouth to its first winning season in nine years with an overall record of 15-12, including the team’s first-ever victories over Power 5 teams in Colorado and Boston College. That squad also set the school single-game record for most 3-pointers with 16 at Ohio State as well as the season record with 217.
In the Ancient Eight — a league that has been ranked among the top eleven in conference RPI each of the past six years — Koclanes led Dartmouth to a top-four finish twice (2015-2016 and 2018-19). The Big Green also had the toughest strength of schedule in the league in 2019-20. She leaves her position with a record of 77-117 overall and 34-64 in the Ivy League.
Koclanes had a total of nine All-Ivy honors bestowed upon her players, including current assistant coach Lakin Roland ’16 who was tabbed for the first team as a senior and twice earned honorable mention. A trio of athletes — Roland, Fanni Szabo ’17 and Kate Letkewicz ’18 — all joined the exclusive 1,000-point club under Koclanes. No fewer than six of her players have signed professional contracts following their collegiate career, including Isalys Quiñones ’19, who signed to play in Greece’s top division and is currently preparing for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics as a member of the Puerto Rican National Team.
The team excelled in the classroom under Koclanes, earning the Public Recognition Award based on the Academic Progress Rate (APR) every year of her tenure. Four of her student-athletes were named to the Academic All-Ivy League team seven times, and Annie McKenna ’20 was selected for the CoSIDA Academic All-District I Team just last year.
Koclanes boasts a coaching tree consisting of 11 of her former players that are now high school or college coaches. In addition, the first two assistant coaches that served by her side in Hanover are now head and associate head coaches — Maria Williamson (University of Chicago) and Addie Micir (Lehigh University), respectively.
To connect with the community at large, Koclanes, along with her Director of Basketball Operations, Michael Motta, created the DWB Honorary Coaches Program, which invited faculty, staff, administrators and community members to join in the complete DWB game day experience. Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon and his wife Gail Gentes, Laurel Richie (Board Chair at Dartmouth), Larissa Hopkins (former interim Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students) and Dia Draper (Tuck Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) are among the list of DWB Honorary Coaches.
“Although I did not get the opportunity to work with Belle,” Interim Director of Athletics and Recreation Peter Roby said, “I do appreciate her eight years of service to the college and athletics department. Belle provided us with passion and leadership and set high standards for student-athletes and the program, and I’m sure we will continue to see evidence of that into the future. I want to wish her the best in the next chapter of her career.”
Koclanes will remain in her role until March 31 before beginning her new position. A national search for the fifth head coach of the program will start immediately.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
“Belle Koclanes is the consummate professional, a most respected colleague, and a dear friend. This is a bittersweet day as I congratulate someone who is most deserving of her exciting endeavor as the newest President of Strive. There is no doubt she will tackle this opportunity with the same passion and character as she did coaching her young women at Dartmouth. The Ivy League and college basketball will truly miss her talent. Belle is a gifted human who excels in building authentic relationships. She was born to lead and will continue to impact everyone who meets her in the most positive way.”
— Allison Guth, the Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954, Head Coach of Women’s Basketball at Yale
“Coach Belle is one of the best leaders of people I’ve been around. She leads and develops with empathy, an open mind and a big heart. There is no stagnancy or settling in her program; each person has to be ready to attack every day and get better. She has a deep and vast knowledge of the game of basketball which pushes her player and team development to another level. Her focus on having a growth mindset, being solution-oriented, and positive motivates all around her to act in this same way. It is unique, special and why Coach Belle’s impact at Dartmouth will be felt for a long time to come. I’m excited for her to lead and develop the Strive community in the same way.”
— Maria Williamson, University of Chicago women’s basketball head coach
“The Big Green is better for the work that Coach Belle and her talented staff and players have done to include staff, faculty and community members in the DWB experience. The Honorary Coach program, her social justice work, the way she prioritizes integrity, hard work and camaraderie are unmatched in my experience at Dartmouth. To watch Belle at work was a master class in leadership at the intersection of inspiration, collaboration, courage and getting things done. She is a smart, strategic thinker and made an impact on so many young athletes with her blend of integrity, competitive spirit, innovation and, most of all, genuine care and pride in the teams that she leads. Coach Belle is the real deal. Thank you for all you have given to the students, staff, faculty, community and families of the Big Green.”
— Dia Draper, Tuck Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion