Kirsten Olowinski’s ties to the Miami University women’s basketball program will remain strong.
She graduated in May and finished her career as the top rebounder and No. 9 scorer in school history, but was shocked and angered when Maria Fantanarosa got fired after the RedHawks completed a 19-13 campaign.
The blow has been softened, though, by the hiring of Cleve Wright, who came from Gannon University in her hometown of Erie, Pa. Olowinski has known him for years and worked at his camps.
“The basketball world in Erie is all connected,” Olowinski said. “Through playing at Mercyhurst Prep when I was being recruited and whatnot, we’d come across each other a couple of times. We talked from the get-go, but it was one of those things where he knew I wanted to get out of Erie and do the whole college thing away from home.
“He didn’t actually recruit me too hard to stay in Erie, but he was very willing to help me with any other coach that I had questions about or any of the other universities, which was amazing. When I ended up choosing Miami, he still contacted me to work camps with him and get that experience working with the children.
“And while I was at Miami, his oldest daughter Chloe was going to my high school, so we had that connection as well. He’s definitely someone who’s willing to work with people. He’s very well-rounded as a coach and as a person. He’s a good choice for Miami.”
That said, Olowinski is clear in her belief that Fantanarosa did not deserve to get dismissed. Olowinski and Courtney Osborn were the only seniors on this year’s team and have a deep affection for Fantanarosa.
“I can speak on my behalf and Courtney’s as well. It’s something that you never want to hear,” Olowinski said. “I can’t even put into words the shock that came when I found out. Maria is someone I care about, someone that became family to me and someone that developed me into who I am on and off the court.”
Fantanarosa has played a significant role in the next stage of Olowinski’s life. The 6-foot-1 forward has decided to play professional basketball in Europe and will find out next month where she’s headed.
“I could end up anywhere in Europe, which is actually an amazing thought,” said Olowinski, who’s currently doing some landscaping and working at Planet Fitness in Erie. “Right now, I just train and train and train. Basketball definitely takes a toll on your body, so I’m going to do it for one year and then decide if it’s something I enjoy and want to continue.”