Coach Karin Harvey: How She Got Here

Coach Harvey practicing with players.

Karin Harvey is entering her eleventh season at Montclair State University as the head coach of the Women’s Basketball team. Harvey knew what her dream was from a young age, “I always loved basketball, so I kinda knew I wanted to do something with that, it’s how I picked my college.” She was given a small college scholarship to play basketball and played through until her senior year. As she entered the first week of her senior year, she was hit with a tragedy, “My father was diagnosed with cancer and he had a very short time to live.” Due to this, Harvey withdrew from school to spend time with her father and assist her mother. Though she withdrew from school her plan was to return back to school after her family has processed and healed from the loss of their father.

Her young self at the age of twenty-one did not anticipate how difficult it would be for her mother to recover from the loss of her husband. Harvey, who wanted to care for her mother, didn’t return back to school; she started to work as a JV couch at Deerfield High School in Michigan. While coaching she began to bartend and was a waitress at a sports bar; soon after she was promoted to the manager of the restaurant. It wasn’t until she looked up at the screen one day during March Madness that she realized, she remembers looking at the screen and saying, “What happened to that dream?” That realization inspired her inside to go back to school, finish her degree, and begin graduate school at Smith College for Exercise and Sports Science.

Before beginning her degree at Smith College in North Hampton, Massachusetts, Harvey was given the opportunity to coach for a boy’s high school basketball team. Not knowing that women typically do not get positions coaching men, when asked by the Assistant Director why he should hire her to coach men she gestured toward the male, women’s basketball coach and responded with, “The same reason you hired him to coach women.”

Harvey was first women in the state of Massachusetts to coach a men’s basketball team, and though she accomplished a lot, when her grad assistantship was over, she had to part ways to follow pursuit to becoming a college basketball coach. She relocated to Maryland where she was given the head coach positon for the girl’s lacrosse team at the Connelly School of the Holy Child, she wasn’t there long before getting a call from the former head coach of the Montclair State University Women’s Basketball team, asking Harvey to come be her assistant coach.

After some time at Montclair, Harvey finally got the job she had been waiting for, she got a call from Drew University on October 1st, fourteen days before the basketball season started, to be the head coach. After eight months of coaching at Drew, the Assistant Director at Montclair called Harvey and asked her to come back to be the head coach for the women’s basketball team, and after a long journey, she landed where she wanted to be, “You don’t know what your path is going to be.” “You think you are going to do x,y, and z. This is where I am now, this is my goal, and it is just going to be a straight line.” Harvey knows better than most that life does not work out the way we want it to, but through it all, she encourages everyone to keep moving forward and working towards your goal.

While at Drew University, Harvey coached Courtney Cunningham in her senior year, and she says, “She was just a phenomenal coach.” Cunningham, now Harvey’s assistant coach, has been with Harvey for ten seasons and has helped build the basketball program into the amazing program it is now. Cunningham states how close and similar the two are, and how essential it is to have the closeness when coaching together, “Every year we get to work together again, and it makes us stronger.”

Assistant Coach Courtney Cunningham practicing with players.

The program and culture that Cunningham and Harvey have both created is deeply rooted into the team players, it is rare to see the members of the team walking around campus alone, they tend to travel in small groups. One of the team’s freshman, Aleah Bass, talked about the close bond the team shares, “People ask me all of the time if I am going to join a sorority, but it’s like I’m already in one.” Cunningham also commented, “You come in and you’re automatically apart of it…you automatically have ten new friends.”

Montclair State | New Jersey

Shannon McCarthy

Shannon is a graduating senior at Montclair studying Communications and Media Arts concentrating in Public Relations with a minor in Business Administration.