On Feb. 12, when the buzzer sounded and Montclair State University women’s basketball won their third game of the season against Kean University, it was also a memorable night for head coach Karin Harvey. Having been a head coach for 14 seasons has culminated in 300 career victories.
The moment after she won the game was what really defined this milestone for her. The entire team had created posters for the end of the game and were happy to be a part of their coach’s historic win. In fact, they seemed just as excited about the accomplishment as if it was their own.
Harvey said it was a great experience and that it felt good to look back on the events leading up to this moment.
“When you accomplish something like that it gives you an opportunity to reflect back on your years,” Harvey said. “What I really think about is all the players and the coaches that I have worked with over my time. It’s a nice trip down memory lane.”
It all started in 2006 when Harvey was first given the opportunity to be head coach of Drew University’s women’s basketball team. To this day, the 2006-07 season is the program’s greatest season, in her only year as Drew’s head coach.
The next season, she started her reign as the Red Hawks’ head coach. She brought along one of her players on that Drew team as well. Courtney Cunningham, the associate head coach of the team, has been by Harvey’s side for 13 seasons now.
“She had something that most of the coaches I had throughout my life just didn’t have,” Cunningham said. “She had that drive and ability to make a team so much better than they were. Just the individual talent a team had… she can really up it.”
That Drew team still holds a special place in Harvey’s heart, along with the 2015 Red Hawks women’s basketball team that made the Final Four. Recently, a former star player from the 2015 team returned to the program, as Katie Sire joined the coaching staff as an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator.
“Transitioning from one of her players to now [being] her assistant, one of the things I’ve noticed that coach Harvey consistently brings to her teams is how much she cares and always has her players back,” Sire said. “Coach Harvey does a great job at building relationships with her players which makes for a more enjoyable team environment every day.”
Harvey’s coaching style is unique. She is able to draw the line between a respectable coach and a friend for someone to talk to, allowing for a team dynamic unlike any other.
Senior captain and guard, Taylor Brown, appreciates what Harvey always brings to the team outside of basketball.
“She did a really great job of showing me what it is like to have a coach, but also a really great friend,” Brown said. “She cares about what is going on in our personal lives and makes sure we know that we can go to her for anything.”
This played a major role in the bonding of the team and making sure all coaches and players understand each other. This is also part of the reason behind Harvey’s success in the standards she and her coaches hold for their teams.
“Regardless of the talent level, or what players we return, or how experienced the team is, she always demands the same thing from each team,” Sire said. “We have our philosophy [Defend, Rebound, Run] and she gets every team to buy into that mindset, as well as play hard. She knows that’s how she can have success with different teams year after year.”
Harvey would say it herself, that this was not just her win, but that it belongs to everyone who has played a major role in the teams she has coached. From coaches to players to medical staff, especially this season, it is all a team effort from both Drew and Montclair State.
“All of them have helped in one way or another,” Harvey said. “Courtney has been my assistant for 13 years so the impact that she has had on the program you can’t measure. Another is Brian Sampson, a former assistant. There has been a ton of players throughout the program and throughout my time that have just had a huge impact.”
The relationships made through coaching is what Harvey has cherished along the way. It is what keeps her motivated and wanting success for every one of her players as much as they do. Her ability to push players beyond their limits is one of a kind and a crucial reason for her 14-year streak of winning seasons.
In that time, she has nearly a .750 winning percentage and seven NCAA Division III Tournament appearances. She has been the conference coach of the year six times and is a five-time Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year. She has also coached multiple All-Americans.
“She’s never really content when it comes to getting better,” Cunningham said. “I think what’s really unique in all of her years, even with her success she always finds a way to be better.”
Even during this coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic-stricken season, Harvey and the team overcame all obstacles to clinch the number one seed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament. Her success is still continuing this very second while her 300 wins is a thing of the past.
However, it is those accomplishments that not only allow you to celebrate, but as Harvey mentioned, an even more rewarding feeling is a chance to reflect on the people and journey it took to get here.