Geneseo grad named assistant coach at Emory

Amy Carton
Katherine Menendez was recently named assistant women's basketball coach at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.

Geneseo native Katherine Menendez is taking her work ethic and dedication to the sport of basketball and using it to help younger players as she steps into a new role as assistant coach.

“I didn’t know I wanted to be a college coach until I was a college player,” said Menendez. “I loved what the process did for me and what was best for me as a player and student. I gained a lot of confidence, and if I wasn’t a college coach I would have coached at a high school.”

Menendez, a 2004 graduate of J. D. Darnall High School and 2008 graduate of North Central College, accepted a full-time women’s basketball assistant coaching position at Division III Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. and began her new position June 1.

“I got very lucky because there are not a lot of full-time coaching positions in Division III,” said Menendez. “I just met the right person at the right time.”

That perfect timing was at a Division III business meeting at the Division I Final Four, where she struck up a conversation with Emory University head coach Christy Thomaskutty.

Menendez and Thomaskutty found they had something in common as Thomaskutty use to be an assistant coach at Illinois State University where Menendez completed her master’s degree in sports management and was a graduate assistant in the NCAA compliance department.

“We knew a lot of the same people at Illinois State,” she said. “After the Final Four, I followed up with her by e-mail, and she said ‘by the way I have a full-time assistant coaching positions available’ and she wanted to know if I was interested.”

Menendez traveled to Emory for a two-interview process and was then offered the position.

“It was not a hard decision to go that far away because I knew I had to,” said Menendez. “The biggest asset for a coach is to be able to pick up and leave at any time.”

As a full-time assistant coach, Menendez will help coach Thomaskutty with day-to-day operations for the women’s basketball program as well as a role as recruitment coordinator.

“It was daunting at first, but it is definitely doable,” said Menendez. “I want to create relationships with the players and parents.

“I hope to be a spark to this team, challenge the girls because they are ready to do good things on the court, support the program and do my best to bring great student-athletes. I want to learn from  Thomaskutty because she is a young enthusiastic coach. I was told if I ever had the opportunity to coach with her I had to go.”

Menendez said one of the challenges she will face this year is getting to know the girls and finding out what they need from her.

“Every team is so different and I want to learn how I can best help the girls,” she said. “Also, learning a new university is a challenge.”

To get to this point, Menendez played for the North Central College women’s basketball team from 2005-08 and then moved on as a graduate assistant at Illinois State University. Her latest role was as assistant coach at Illinois Wesleyan University for the last two years.

“In high school, my coaches were always good about getting me to camps to have the opportunity to play in college,” said Menendez. “And my college coaches really helped me to get into their profession.

“My high school coaches, Bob Thomas and Bob Pettit, were always wonderful and were thinking about what the next step needed to be. They never stopped challenging me.”

Menendez said her work ethic and the people she has met along the way are what has allowed her to get to this point in her career.

“I was never a tremendous player early on,” she said. “I had to spend a lot of hours in the gym and had to work hard. My dad spent endless hours with me, and my work ethic allowed me to be a college player. I was a role player in college, which has helped me as a coach. I have high expectations for those who are not the stars.

“Illinois Wesleyan was an unbelievable experience. Head coach Mia Smith is a fantastic leader for the team, and I was lucky to learn from her style. Emily Bauer, North Central College coach, is a fantastic coach and one of the reasons why I decided to become a coach. Lisa Robinson of Annawan, played for the University of Illinois and I helped her at a camp at Air Force. She was a fantastic mentor,” she said.

Menendez is the daughter of Bill and Dee Menendez of Geneseo.

“Both of my parents have been fantastic support, driving and moving me to Atlanta and getting me settled,” said Menendez.?“I can’t have two more dedicated parents.

“Basketball has always been a good thing in my life and my family and friends have always been supportive. Basketball has always been a positive thing for me.”