whistleBill Coen ’83 was going to be a doctor.

Lauren Steates Cupp ’07 intended to follow her parents into law.

Gary Heenan ’98 was headed for a business career. 

Emma Parkhurst ’21 thought she would become a health care professional. 

Coaching wasn’t the career path any of these alumni envisioned as undergraduates. Yet, they are now indeed coaches — college coaches — who along with other former Continental student-athletes are teaching and inspiring young people throughout the country. 

Although the reasons they chose this line of work vary, of course, one thing is true for them all. The desire to become a coach was sparked by lessons they learned from their own coaches, teammates, professors, and other mentors on College Hill.

Take a timeout to read about a few of them.


Continentals Turned Coaches

Bill Coen ’83
men’s basketball head coach at Northeastern University

Bill Coen ’83 took to the hardwood for Tom Murphy, who in his 34-year tenure as coach of the men’s basketball team launched dozens of players into coaching careers. That is true for Coen, who steered away from a future in medicine and instead has enjoyed a long, successful tenure in basketball.

After giving up the pre-med track, Coen spent time as a software engineer for Raytheon before taking on coaching jobs at Canajoharie (N.Y.) High School, Hamilton, Rhode Island, and Boston College. In 2007, he became head coach of the men’s basketball program at Northeastern University and is now the Huskies’ all-time leader in victories with more than 280, with a couple of conference championships and several NCAA appearances.

He credits his experience at Hamilton with helping put him in that position.

“I’ve had a lifetime of great relationships,” Coen says. “Our coaches — Coach Murphy, Bob Montana, Bob North, Bob Roth — that is what it was about. They set you on the right track. They taught you perseverance, about doing it the right way. The relationships with teammates were great. Coach Murphy connected us all, carrying us through good times and bad.”

Coen has tried to model that experience for his own players, but it wasn’t just lessons on the court that carried him to the top levels of the college game. Classroom work played a very large role as well. 

“I think the huge benefit of going to Hamilton is that you learn how to think critically,” he says. “Having a liberal arts background, with that faculty, and playing for a Hall of Fame coach had all the elements you needed to enter the coaching world.”

Melissa Hart ’89
co-head women’s soccer coach at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

As a Continental, Melissa Hart ’89 played soccer, basketball, and softball, and still holds several records, including most points scored in a Hamilton women’s basketball game (39), which she achieved twice on the way to a career average high of 15.5 points per game. Like Coen, it took her some time to decide coaching was a viable career path — and she, too, got a nudge from Murphy.

“I resisted even accepting how much I loved coaching early in my career,” says Hart, who just completed two seasons as co-head women’s soccer coach at Worcester Polytechnic Institute after stints at Emerson College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a long run at her alma mater, Belmont High outside of Boston. “It was not a ‘serious’ choice for a young woman. Though the numbers were growing of female athletes and women in sport, it was still a decade away before a big jump in the growth of opportunities for women.”

Murphy, then the athletics director, asked Hart to come back to Hamilton after her senior year for a coaching internship. She would spend three years at her alma mater, serving as head women’s soccer coach, assistant women’s basketball coach, and interim head softball coach. She found that her education on College Hill lent itself to working in athletics, but she opted to teach in Japan for a few years and play semi-pro basketball there as well. 

Hart realized then that she liked teaching, but that teaching on a field or court was even more rewarding, “and trying to help young people learn life skills through teamwork and pushing oneself and others in competition seemed like an appealing job description to me,” she recalls.

Hart has indeed found success as a coach. During her stint at MIT from 1997-2003, she served as the head coach for both the women’s soccer and basketball programs and is one of only two recipients in NEWMAC conference history to claim Coach of the Year honors in both.

Herb Hand ’90
offensive line coach at the University of Central Florida

Herb Hand ’90, on the other hand, did know he would coach but figured it would be as a volunteer with his kids’ teams. He quickly found out differently. Now the highly regarded offensive line coach at the University of Central Florida, he’s made more than a dozen stops all over the map, from West Virginia University to the University of Texas. He’s worked with programs that earned six conference championships, and offenses Hand has coached have produced all-time leading rushers at three different institutions: West Virginia, Tulsa, and Vanderbilt.

Like the other Hamiltonians, his coaching life benefitted greatly from what he was taught on the Hill, much of it by playing under head coach Steve Frank and Mike Davis, his position coach senior year. “I learned a lot about myself and that I could control my own destiny based on the decisions that I make every day and not based on the circumstances in my life,” Hand says. “I learned how to lead as well as how to follow, and that both roles are critical to developing synergy within a group. I learned that everyone has a story, and if you talk less and listen more, you’ll become a much more empathetic leader.”

As a coach now for over 30 years, Hand understands the enormous responsibility he’s undertaken. 

“Coaching has given me a platform to make a difference in the lives of the young men with whom I work daily, and that’s an opportunity that I don’t take lightly. The title coach is a powerful one, and I’m blessed to have carried it for so long,” he says.

Lauren Steates Cupp ’07
men’s and women’s golf head coach at Hamilton

While Hand grew up in Westmoreland, N.Y., just a proverbial stone’s throw from College Hill, and deployed his coaching talents throughout the country, Lauren Steates Cupp ’07 is finding success closer to home. A native of nearby New Hartford, N.Y., she took over as head coach of her alma mater’s men’s and women’s golf teams in 2017.

A two-sport athlete at Hamilton where she founded the women’s golf club, Cupp was coached by Ellen Hull and Jerry Tine in track, and Susan Keller and Alexis Manhurst in volleyball. She also received input from Bob Simon, the late professor of philosophy and longtime golf coach.

Having also gained notoriety as a world champion pioneering speed golfer, Cupp was twice named NESCAC Coach of the Year — in 2021 for women and in 2022 for men, the same year the Continentals took the NESCAC title and made an appearance in the NCAA Division III Championship. Yet, just as important to Cupp is this statistic: last year 13 of her players were named to the NESCAC Spring All-Academic Team.

“My experience as a former Hamilton student-athlete gives me a unique perspective on the challenges of balancing academics and athletics,” she says. “It instilled in me the values of teamwork, respect, and commitment. I try to reflect these values in my coaching, hoping to build the framework for winning programs and contribute to successful post-Hamilton lives. Having the opportunity to engage and enrich the student-athletes on my teams and students in my classes is the best job in the world.”

Will Tifft ’14
assistant track and field coach at Plymouth State

Skills learned in the classroom — such as critical thinking and effective communication — represent another constant theme among the coaches.

“The throwing events in track and field are extremely technical and need to be broken down at different stages when trying to teach them or correct a technical issue,” says Will Tifft ’14, an assistant track and field coach at Plymouth State who also works as an environmental geologist for Weston Solutions. “My classes, whether a geoscience lab, art history, or intensive writing, they all helped to improve those skills.”

A highly decorated weight man at Hamilton, Tifft cites assistant coaches John Ostler, now his boss at Plymouth State, and Jake Tyksinski, who taught him the basics of weight throwing, as major influences. Just like they inspired him, Tifft describes the joy he gets when he and a student he coaches reach that a-ha moment.

“I love the challenge of developing athletes. In track and field, most throwers [are introduced to a new event] in college, weight for indoor and hammer for outdoor,” he says. “I find them to be two of the more technical events but also the most rewarding when everything clicks. Getting to teach and develop athletes in these is so much fun, especially once everything falls into place.”

Kenny Collins ’17
head baseball coach at St. Lawrence University

Kenny Collins ’17, head baseball coach at St. Lawrence University, says he has benefitted from Hamilton’s open curriculum. When not on the diamond, the two-year captain and four-year Continental starter — who finished top-five in program history in runs scored, on-base percentage, and stolen bases — made it a habit to take classes outside of his government major.

“With the amount of academic flexibility and opportunities around campus, every student has a chance to develop over four years instead of having to choose a path right away,” he says. “By senior year, I knew which path I wanted to go down, and I had the preparation and guidance to enter the coaching world.”

 Although he knew relatively early that he wanted to pursue coaching, Collins still found the job doesn’t always come easy. “It is a constant challenge,” he admits. “Every season presents new opportunities, and every athlete has their own journey that you are able to influence for the better. These challenges make you a better coach because you are constantly forced to adapt and improve. Ultimately, being in a position to help athletes reach their full potential is an extremely rewarding position to be in.”

Emma Parkhurst ’21
assistant coach volleyball at William Smith

Emma Parkhurst ’21, a three-time volleyball captain and now an assistant coach at William Smith, learned innumerable valuable lessons at Hamilton, including how to navigate challenges individually and in groups academically and with teammates.

“Hamilton’s high academic standards and emphasis on attention to detail have contributed to my ability to perform my responsibilities as a coach at the highest level,” she says. “The stress on excellent oral and written communication skills has also played a significant role in my job as a recruiter. Having constant conversations with recruits, parents, club coaches, and recruiting coordinators requires clear, impactful, and genuine communication, which I feel was strongly emphasized at Hamilton. …

“I strive to share the lessons I’ve learned about success as a student and athlete — lessons in time management, effective communication, working hard, and seeking support — to contribute to their overall growth as students, volleyball players, and humans,” Parkhurst adds.

Gary Heenan ’98
men’s hockey coach at Utica University

Lessons learned in class and on the ice from former Hamilton men’s hockey coach Phil Grady (who won 304 games and an ECAC Championship in his long career) are highly valued by Gary Heenan ’98, who has built a powerhouse program at Utica University over the last 23 seasons. Founder of the men’s hockey program, Heenan has been named conference Coach of the Year several times and national Division III Coach of the Year by U.S. Collegiate Hockey Online in 2020, when his team went 25-2-2. In addition to capturing numerous regular and post season championships, the Pioneers consistently produce All-Americans and graduate players to the professional level. Heenan has also developed some of the nation’s top young coaches. He has several former assistants now coaching Division I programs, USHL and major junior teams, as well as on NHL staffs. 

Heenan is quick to look back to the basics he learned at Hamilton. “I was never a good writer,” he says, adding that he worked to improve his writing on College Hill. “Hamilton allowed me to take advantage of presentation skills. And Phil was as passionate about life skills as he was with the X’s and O’s. You just couldn’t be late, you couldn’t not be well groomed, you couldn’t miss class. I’ve adopted those principles in my own coaching, for sure.

“Coaching has a direct impact on 28 guys every single day. Winning is one thing, but helping guys win in life is very rewarding,” Heenan adds. “Players are players when they are with you, but my friend group grows with every class we graduate. My wife quite frankly is tired of attending four or five weddings of former players each summer. ... I love it.”

The dedication of the Coach Tom Murphy Court.

Honoring a Legend: The Tom Murphy Court

Nearly 200 of his former players and fellow alumni gathered on Dec. 9, 2023 to honor their coach and mentor as Hamilton’s basketball facility was officially christened the Tom Murphy Court.

Facing Off at Center Ice

Dave Clausen ’98
founding women’s ice hockey coach at Utica University

Dave Clausen ’98 and Chris Baudo ’00 are successful hockey coaches and program builders — and they just happen to be rivals in the United College Hockey Conference (UCHC). Clausen is the founding women’s coach at Utica University and has directed a dominant outfit with the Pioneers for the last 23 seasons. He boasts a 347-214-37 record, with 20 postseason appearances. He is a two-time ECAC West Coach of the Year and earned that honor twice in the UCHC as well.

Chris Baudo ’00
founding women’s ice hockey coach at Nazareth University

Baudo is in his sixth season at Nazareth University, where he also started the women’s hockey program, and has run up an impressive 116-26-7 record. Like his cross-state rival, Baudo has been named UCHC Coach of the Year three times. 

Baudo was a two-time MVP of the Continentals hockey team. He previously coached at The Gunnery School, where he won 239 games in 15 seasons, and at the Selects Academy.

Their teams faced off for the UCHC Championship on March 2, with Nazareth edging Utica 2-1. With that win, Naz advanced to the first round of the 2024 NCAA Division III National Championship against none other than Hamilton. The Continentals defeated the Golden Eagles 2-1 with a goal scored in overtime.

Although they were on College Hill together, Clausen was more familiar with Baudo’s older brother Joe ’95, a standout hockey defenseman and team captain who is now the athletic director at Nardin Academy in Buffalo. Clausen was a football quarterback at Hamilton who gave up his dream of also playing hockey. However, he began his coaching journey by assisting with the then-new Continental women’s hockey program. He also coached football and hockey at Maine Maritime and Bowdoin College before arriving at Utica.

A Rare Three-Peat

Kate Fowler ’10
goaltender for Hamilton’s 2008 national championship lacrosse team

Not too many people can claim three NCAA championships. Kate Fowler ’10 is one of them.

Fowler was the goaltender for Hamilton’s 2008 national championship lacrosse team and later added two more titles as an assistant coach at Gettysburg. After five seasons as head coach at Washington College, she is now a volunteer assistant coach at Vassar. She hopes to be a head coach again one day, but right now is enjoying spending time taking care of her newborn daughter.

Whether playing or coaching, Fowler’s experiences with championship teams had several things in common. “Each team had tremendous leadership that fostered a genuine love for each other and embraced the value of every member of the team and staff, regardless of position,” she says. “Every championship took a lot of belief in what we could do if we competed to our potential — and had a little luck along the way.”

Winner of the Gelas Memorial Prize (for outstanding development in sportsmanship, leadership, character, and athletic ability) as a senior, Fowler also played goal in soccer four years and was a team captain in both sports. The Continentals won four consecutive Liberty League lacrosse championships during her career and played in three consecutive NCAA semifinals before winning the whole thing in 2008 to become Hamilton’s first and only national championship team. Fowler credits lacrosse coach Patty Kloidt and soccer coach Colette Gilligan, along with her assistant coaches, with teaching her how impactful a coach could be. 

“Every day as a coach is different, so the ability to think on my feet and problem-solve creatively helps me constantly,” she says. “Being able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing is something I credit Hamilton for as well. The open curriculum allowed me to take classes outside of my major, many of which I still draw from today. And as an econ major, my colleagues always ask me to help with their budgets!”

Hamilton in the NFL

Joe Gilbert ’87
Carolina Panthers

Joe Gilbert ’87 previously was the offensive line coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, helping win Super Bowl LV in 2021. An offensive tackle from Horseheads, N.Y., Gilbert was Hamilton’s first first-team football All-American and was a key member of the Continentals 6-1-1 team that defeated Union, ranked second in the nation in 1984. Gilbert coached at a long string of colleges, beginning with Albany State under legendary coach Bob Ford, and was a member of the Indianapolis Colts staff from 2012 to 2017.

Sean Ryan ’94

Previously with the Carolina Panthers, Sean Ryan ’94 was a safety and linebacker at Hamilton. Ryan began his coaching career at Siena College, followed by stays at Albany State, Colgate, Boston College, Columbia, and Harvard. The Hudson Falls, N.Y., native moved on to the New York Giants, where he helped coach two Super Bowl championship teams. He handled quarterbacks and wide receivers with the Giants, Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, and Carolina Panthers. He recently was a finalist for the head coaching position at Harvard and hopes to return to the NFL.

Tim Berbenich ’02
Atlanta Falcons

The Huntington, N.Y., native began his professional career in the operations office of the New York Jets in 2003 and became an offensive assistant the next year. The former Continentals wide receiver moved on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006 and served in numerous capacities with the Bucs, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders, Houston Texans, and Los Angeles Rams. He recently joined the Falcons as a passing game/game management assistant.

John Pitarresi ’70 is a journalist who spent more than four decades covering sports and other topics for the Utica newspapers. Now retired, he often can be found in the stands cheering on the Continentals.

John Pitarresi ’70 author

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