The Hofstra women’s basketball program ushered in a new era with a familiar face this year.
Hofstra Athletic Director Rick Cole. Jr. tapped Danielle Santos Atkinson as the Pride’s new head coach in April after she earned valuable experiences on coaching staffs at Pittsburgh, Florida State and Kentucky the past six seasons. Atkinkson’s introduction to coaching began right at the Mack Sports Complex though as a Hofstra assistant from 2006 to 2010 creating a homecoming scenario for the former University of Florida standout.
“I wanted to make sure I went to a place that was a great fit and had the resources to support women’s basketball,” said Atkinson, who earned SEC Academic Honor Roll accolades four times during her collegiate career at Florida from 2003 to 2006. “There are a lot of familiar faces in the Hofstra athletic department who have helped with the transition.”
Atkinson encountered adversity early on after her arrival at Hofstra when her newly hired associate head coach Cathy Inglese died in late July after falling down a stairway and suffering a traumatic brain injury. Inglese, who was previously a longtime successful head coach at Boston College, was a major asset to Atkinson in her short time on campus while learning the roles of what it means to lead a program. Hofstra paid tribute to Inglese with her initials ingrained next to the Pride bench prior to the home opener against Stony Brook on Nov. 13.
“Cathy was unbelievable with helping me with the initial transition as a head coach,” Atkinson said. “She really gave me the confidence in those early days that I could step into this new role.”
Hofstra graduated its top scorers from last year's 11-22 season in guards Boogie Brozoski and Sica Cuzic, leading a big void in the offense. Red-shirt junior Ana Hernandez Gill, sophomore JaKayla Brown and freshman Sorelle Ineza have emerged as scoring threats in the backcourt early on this season. Senior Marianne Kalin and red-shirt sophomore Jaylen Hines provide an inside presence.
“We will score by committee,” said Atkinson, who noted that her offense is predicated largely on ball movement and not relying one or two players to carry the load. “We are trying to get everyone to play to their strengths.”
Hofstra opened the season with a 43-41 win at Hartford on Nov. 6 that featured 12 points from Brown and 10 by Hines to go along with seven rebounds. The Pride shined defensively holding Hartford to just 30 percent shooting while out-rebounding the Hawks 48 to 42. Kalin, a Finland native, blocked a Hartford attempt to tie the game with just six seconds left.
“It was a great start for us,” said Atkinson of season-opening triumph. “I was really pleased with how they performed in the final minutes of the game.”
The Hartford victory was followed by losses to Sacred Heart, Stony Brook and Cleveland State in which the Pride struggles to find their offensive rhythm. The offense made some strides in a 73-64 loss to Howard last Sunday night with four players tallying double figures led by 17 from Hines.
“They are growing and getting better everyday,” Atkinson said. “We never have to coach effort.”
Atkinson is hoping the non-league schedule prepares Hofstra well for the Colonial Athletic Association portion of the season that gets underway starting Jan. 5 at Northeastern with the first home CAA game slated for Jan. 17 against William & Mary. The Pride were picked to finish last in the 10-team league providing further fuel to prove the doubters wrong.
“We have nowhere to go but up,” Atkinson said. “We are going to lay it all on the line every game.”