As interviewed and written by Sunil Sunder Raj for Global Women’s Sports Radio
This past Monday, I had the opportunity to speak with William Paterson University Women’s Basketball Head Coach Erin Monahan on the phone about recording her 500th career win last week against Rutgers-Newark. In her 28th season as head coach, Monahan has guided the Pioneers to 11 NCAA Tournament and 9 NJAC (New Jersey Athletic Conference) Tournament appearances.
Back in 2012, William Paterson won the NJAC Championship Title. In 2018 the Pioneers captured the ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) Tournament Championship.
William Paterson achieved 11 20-win seasons, two trips to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and Elite 8. 33 players earning all-conference honors, eight former players inducted into the Alumni Association Hall Fame, and two players named NJAC consecutive players of the year.
Sunil Sunder Raj: Congratulations, Coach Monahan, on your 500th career victory; what does this milestone mean to you personally?
Erin Monahan: Obviously, it means I have been coaching for a very long time and had some success. I have had some amazing players throughout my career, Hall of Famers and All-Americans. I had many tenured assistant coaches who have been through the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 with me. My family at William Paterson being the administration and staff. My children, parents, and extended family. My brothers’ have been an incredible support system for me for 20 years.
Sunil Sunder Raj: Leading up to the series against Rutgers-Newark did you know in the back of your mind you were within 500 career wins.
Erin Monahan: My goal was to find out where I can get two wins. Obviously, we had a very tough game against Rutgers-Newark on Friday night; we literally scored with four seconds to get that victory. Knowing Saturday wasn’t going to be easy, but I’ll be honest, no one was really aware I was going for this. My family was, but the girls weren’t even aware of it.
They knew that a 20-point victory during Saturday was happening Saturday, and I felt really good this is happening. My daughter is the scorekeeper for our team and made it extra special she was allowed into the gym.
Sunil Sunder Raj: Can you describe the final buzzer going off in the game?
Erin Monahan: My girls went hysterical, which was really nice. They were dancing and singing; my athletic director presented me with the ball and my daughter and team with flowers and balloons.
Sunil Sunder Raj: 28 years as the William Paterson Head Coach, the longevity is just remarkable. You have been able to adjust and adapt to the times. How have you been able to do it for so long and efficiently?
Erin Monahan: I started my career at 22 years old; I was a very young coach and had an assistant coach who was with me forever. A big part of us winning the conference in my first year. I’ve had some great assistant coaches and players. When I signed up for this way back, my goal was to be a teacher. I’m a basketball teacher; it’s just not a job, and I don’t punch a clock. It’s not torture; I got to work and don’t see myself doing anything else. Different people have reached out to me within the last couple of days, and just incredible to hear from many people that I’ve been a part of their life.
Sunil Sunder Raj: 33 players that earned all-conference honors, eight former players inducted into the Alumni Association Hall of Fame, and two players named NJAC Consecutive Player of the Year. What do those accolades mean to you?
Erin Monahan: Some of these kids could have gotten scholarships but needed a little help in the academic world. We kept them here; they were able to graduate and have done some great things. It’s just about the kids but their families. Brianna Lucas, one of the best players to play for me; throughout my career, her father sends me a Happy Mother’s Day card, and she has been out of the program for seven or eight years. I know I did the right thing bringing her here, doing the right thing, and trying to impact the world.
Here in the Hall of Fame class, we’re putting somebody else up, had one team go in, and I’ll have two more Hall of Fame teams go in; I had my first Sweet 16 team when I was a third-year coach and bringing them back on campus and just being a part of their life again is special. To this day, we have a group chat, share things about their kids, and it’s just so special.
Sunil Sunder Raj: When you see 11 20-win seasons, two trips to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and Elite 8, the NJAC and Division III are just as good as Division II and Division I. What have those moments meant reaching the NCAA Tournament?
Erin Monahan: I have explained to every team that I have hope they just kind of sit back and realize those moments are so special. Those pictures, stats, and memories we have, nothing can replace them. The year I went out to Ohio, I had 10 kids on the team, and they were best friends. Those are the kids I inducted into the Hall of Fame. Last October.
Sunil Sunder Raj: You graduated from William Paterson with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Movement Science and a Master’s in Sports Administration from Montclair State. How have you been able to apply that to coaching basketball?
Erin Monahan: I always wanted to be a teacher, enjoyed playing sports my whole life, and just loved physical education/gym. Sports psychology is my passion, and I love thinking of the brain and trying to motivate. I sat down with athletic directors and coaches on campus; we all help each other out with issues and build leaders. It’s just not throwing the ball out; I need to have leadership meetings and constantly have film sessions with my kids.