Kim Barnes Arico, head coach of the University of Michigan women's basketball team, fondly recalls her time at Adelphi.
Kim Barnes Arico—the head coach of the University of Michigan women’s basketball team—has traveled far since her days coaching at Adelphi. Yet, when she returned to campus last April to accept the Panther Legendary Team Award on behalf of Adelphi’s 2001–2002 women’s basketball team at the Adelphi Athletic Hall of Fame dinner, the miles and years melted away for her and her former players—11 of whom returned for the event .
“I’ve coached at every level—from high school to the big-time now at Michigan,” Barnes Arico said. “Everybody always asks me, ‘What’s the difference between high school and Adelphi and Michigan?’ I always say, ‘Basketball is basketball.’ The kids now might be bigger, stronger and quicker, but the team I had at Adelphi was probably my most special team of all time because of what we were able to do.”
Barnes Arico’s rise to the highest echelon of college athletic coaching has been as meteoric as that of her 2001–2002 team. Led by Alexis Seeley ’03, M.A. ’13 (who was inducted into the Adelphi Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011) and Jessica Dlabola, that team smashed University records, winning 28 games, advancing to the NCAA Division II Tournament Sweet 16 and earning the program’s first national ranking. The next season, Barnes Arico embarked on a successful decade as the head coach of the women’s basketball team at St. John’s University and, in 2012, started at the University of Michigan. Even with such a storied career, Barnes Arico relishes her time at Adelphi.
A favorite moment of her coaching career came after Adelphi’s Sweet 16 defeat—57 to 61. “Everyone was devastated,” she said. She walked with dread up the stairs that led out of the locker room to where the Adelphi parents were waiting. As she got to the top, they clapped.
“Nowadays, you always hear about parents griping or complaining” Barnes Arico said. “But this team was not like that…The parents were completely supportive, and the kids were completely supportive. It didn’t matter if they were playing one minute a game or twenty-five minutes per game.”
At Adelphi, Barnes Arico learned the value of relationships from her players and from mentors such as the late Robert Hartwell, Adelphi’s former longtime athletic director. By her own admission, she is a high-energy coach with extremely high expectations. But she will also go to bat for her players— whether they’re facing issues in school or at home. “I think if people know how much you care about them as individuals… they are willing to run through the wall for you,” she said.
Seeley, who is now the associate dean for teaching, research and technology at Barnard College, said that playing for Barnes Arico was a pleasure, describing her not just as a great coach but as a mentor and now a friend whose opinions Seeley values. “She is incredibly intense and has very high expectations of all of her players—everyone that’s on the team, from the manager to the person running the scoreboard during practice,” Seeley said. You knew that you needed to be at your best at all times. Something that I find to be particularly special about her is that she’s also very understanding, so even though the expectations were very high, she’s not unreasonable.”
Adelphi was Barnes Arico’s springboard, but it’s also her touchstone. When she came back for the Hall of Fame dinner, she drew a crowd—not just her former players, but their parents and some of their grandparents came too.
After the dinner, she pulled an all-nighter, staying up until 6:30 the next morning swapping stories with her former players about their season together and all that has happened since. Barnes Arico said, “To see that they’ve grown up and become really special and really successful and exceptional people was just a joy.”
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