IUP BASKETBALL: For new coach Mazzante, transition begins at IUP
Kelly Mazzante is starting a new chapter in her basketball life. That means a blank page is in front of her. Now it’s up to her to write another success story.
Mazzante, the former Penn State women’s basketball star who scored more points in her college career than any other player — male or female — in Big Ten Conference history, was recently hired as Tom McConnell’s top assistant for the Indiana University of Pennsylvania women’s program. It’s Mazzante’s first college coaching job, and she’s excited about the ongoing transition from player to coach.
“I had a great college career and then I played professionally,” she said, “and I couldn’t have asked for a better career. Now I’m ready to be a coach.”
Mazzante, 32, a native of Montoursville, played seven seasons in the WNBA after her days at Penn State (2001-04) came to an end. She also played overseas in the offseason and retired two years ago with a suitcase full of experiences but no real direction to go. She picked up her license as a certified personal trainer, started boot camps for people looking to get more fit, and worked with kids at her own basketball camp in Phillipsburg. But she kept feeling the pull back to basketball, and that’s when McConnell came into her life.
A chance meeting at a tournament soon blossomed into a friendship, and when McConnell had an opening on his staff this spring, the pair started talking.
“Once we met, things just clicked right away,” Mazzante said. “I knew he was the one I wanted to learn from.”
Mazzante compared the process to her days in high school, when every coach in America wanted her to join them, but nearby Penn State seemed like the best fit.
“That decision was based on gut instinct,” she said. “This was the same thing. Just from what he said and from what other people told me about him, I knew (IUP) was the place for me.”
McConnell, who went 18-10 in his first year as the Crimson Hawks’ head coach, is equally excited.
“I’m thrilled to have Kelly join our staff for a lot of reasons,” said McConnell. “I’m really happy for our players, who are going to have the opportunity to learn from one of college’s best all-around players. … She’s going to be an outstanding coach for many years to come, and she has so much to offer young players. So for her to begin her coaching career at IUP is special for all of us, and I look forward to the impact that she’s going to make.”
With McConnell guiding her, Mazzante hopes to instill the same kind of work ethic and talent she was known for as a player, when she scored 2,919 points in college. She attributes her success to the coaching staff at Penn State and aims to pay it forward in her career.
“Going through it, my coaches were always hard on me and I didn’t know why,” Mazzante said. “But now I understand it and I thank them for it. I hope the kids can learn from me and respect me as a coach because I’ve been through it all. This is kind of neat because I get to experience it all over again.”
She’s also excited about the challenge of being a recruiter and bringing top-notch players to the program.
“I remember how it felt to be recruited, and that was over 10 years ago,” she said. “I can tell the kids what to expect. I’ll be able to help make sure they make the right decisions.”
For Mazzante, the decision to come to IUP already looks like a good one. She’s in the process of moving to Indiana and can’t wait for the next chapter to be written
“They say timing is everything,” she said. “I don’t know if I was ready for this two years ago, but I don’t regret retiring as a player. I do miss being on the court, but I’m really excited about this.”