On May 31, 2017, Kia Damon was formally introduced as the new Head Women’s Basketball Coach at Lafayette College. Her return to Pennsylvania was a homecoming of sorts, as Damon had graduated from Millersville University and spent nine seasons as an Assistant Coach at Penn State University. Damon’s 19 years as an Assistant Coach at various universities and Division I levels fully prepared her to take on the challenge of leading her own program and now she intends on taking full advantage of the opportunity provided to her.
Can you take us through the search process up until you were officially named the new Head Coach at Lafayette?
I was contacted by Snodgrass search firm regarding my interest in the job at Lafayette in early May. The firm received my name through recommendations. During my initial conversation with Tom Jacobs, partner at Snodgrass, we talked very generally about the school, the state of basketball program, the desired profile of the next head coach and the timeline for the hiring process. One week later, I had a phone interview with Tom where we spoke about my background and more specifically about the position at Lafayette. A few days later I had an hour long video conference interview with search committee. Next, I had an on campus interview where I met with key constituents in small groups throughout the day.
As you can imagine, I felt a wide range of emotions after receiving the offer. I did the Tiger Woods fist pump and then followed that up with the Ric Flair “Wooooooo”! Next, my mind went to putting my plan into motion. There are so many things you want to do right away and so many people you want to share the moment with.
What were your priorities over your first 30 days as Lafayette’s Head Coach?
My priorities were: (1) build relationships with the players, (2) hire staff and (3) recruit.
What was important to you when building your coaching staff for the first time as a Head Coach?
I was coming to a program that had not been successful in 20 years. I wanted to assemble an experienced staff of winners, excellent teachers, relationship builders and recruiters. It was very important for me to have assistants who would bring ideas to the table and not just go along with everything I suggested.
Knowing what you know now as a Head Coach, what advice do you have for assistant coaches to best prepare to lead their own program for the first time?
Spend quality time thinking about the kind of program you want to build and the systems/processes needed to execute the vision. Everyone talks about having a 90 day plan and that is helpful; but, you won’t be able to accomplish nearly as much as you think in the first few weeks. Also, do as much work as possible now. For example, draft letters to alums, parents and coaches now. Begin to think about who you want to hire and have informal interviews while sitting in the gym recruiting. Finally, ask your head coach about their decision making process as it relates to specific areas within the program. I have a new perspective on the amount of decisions a head coach must make with limited information. This is a skill that can be developed.