DOMINIC HOSCHER | Reporter
In just her first season at Lindenwood, head coach Katie Falco has turned the women’s basketball team into a juggernaut in the MIAA.
“She’s done a fantastic job,” junior Kallie Bildner said. “We could not have asked for a better coach. All of us love her, she fits in with us well, and she makes basketball fun.”
Falco’s coaching career started off at Montana State, where she was an assistant coach for three and a half seasons.
She then moved to Division I South Dakota State for the next 10 years, again as an assistant coach
When it came to Lindenwood, however, Falco knew from the start that it would be the perfect spot for her.
“For me, it’s all about [what] fits,” Falco said. “When I was contacted by Lindenwood, I certainly did my research, but I knew from the very beginning that it’s the people I wanted to be around and they really sold me. I interviewed with Betsy [Feutz] and Brad [Wachler], and they shared the same vision and created an athletic department that allowed coaches to be successful.”
The first-year head coach helped lead the Lions to their best regular season since 2010-11, finishing with a record of 20-6 and 14-5 in conference play.
This was good enough to earn the team the third seed in the MIAA, their highest ranking ever at the end of a regular season campaign in this conference.
Consistency under Falco was the major reason behind this sustained success. Over the course of the season, Lindenwood’s longest losing streak was just two games. They lost two in a row only once during the year.
“We’ve talked a lot about responding to adversity,” Falco said. “Not everything is going to go the way we want it to go. How you respond is going to be more of a testament to who we are and what our identity is than maybe a loss itself.”
On the court, Falco has come in and incorporated her own system with the basketball program. All elements of the game, from shooting to defending, are featured in what she attempts to implement on the floor.
“I’ve tried to create a system that allows players to be versatile,” Falco said. “We have a skillset on our team that already fits in well to that, but I don’t get too caught up in positions.
“I like to be able to play multiple positions at the same time as long as they balance each other and as long as they can play with each other.”
When it comes to winning and losing, Falco has a way of showing similar emotions to those of her players. After a win, she displays just as much excitement (if not more) as the ones who wear the jerseys, according to Bildner.
“After the Washburn game, she came into the locker room and was upset we weren’t cheering, and was like, ‘I’m going to walk back in this locker room, and you’re gonna show me how you feel about this win,’” Bildner said.
“She gets so excited herself and just expects that from us even if we’re not that type of person.”
One of the highlights to what Falco is able to do as a head coach is the way she connects with each one of her players.
From what can be seen on the court to what occurs off it, Falco’s relationships with the players are what make her stand out among other coaches in the college game.
“A lot of coaches are like ‘I’m here to be your basketball coach,’ but she really goes beyond that,” Bildner said, “and really gets to know you and cares for you as a person. It’s so important as it builds our level of trust. We trust her 100 percent.”
The feeling that Falco is a perfect fit for the Lions is shared throughout the program, starting with the players.
“She fits into this school the same way I felt like I fit in when I came on my visit,” Bildner said. “If she was the coach then, I would’ve easily came here.
“From the way she cares for us, the way she cares for the school and the way she cares for basketball, everything is just what you want in a coach, and why would you not want to play for someone that is like that?”
Falco also fully believes that she found the perfect landing spot in St. Charles.
“I absolutely love Lindenwood, I love what it stands for, I love the people,” Falco said.
“It’s been a fantastic fit for me professionally and personally. I’m just proud to represent Lindenwood and to be able to continue to make people aware of this university and what it offers from an athletic and academic platform.”
In her first postseason run, Falco’s Lindenwood side made it to the semifinals of the MIAA tournament, where they fell to Central Missouri.
These two teams would meet up once more in the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament, where the Jennies again defeated the Lions.
“What our team has been able to do this year has been fantastic, Falco said. “It’s been so fun to watch our growth as a team, because every day we’ve been getting to know each other more and more.