July 18, 2002
By Sean Duff
Fort Collins Coloradoan
Some times, a phone call can change your life.
Just ask Katie Cronin, the former Colorado State University basketball star.
Cronin, 24, had tried out this summer with the Women's National Basketball Association's Seattle Storm. She was cut during training camp and returned to her home state of Colorado, wondering where her career path would turn next.
Cronin, whose CSU career ended in 1999, was working CSU basketball camps when the phone call came.
"I got this call from Michelle Bento," Cronin said, sounding amazed about the conversation even nearly a month after the fact. "It was the most random phone call I'd ever had in my life."
Bento had just been hired as women's basketball coach at Santa Clara. Her predecessor, Chris Denker, had bolted the Broncos on May 28 for Colorado State, and he brought two assistants with him when he took over the Rams' program.
After Bento was hired June 11 to take over Santa Clara's program, she retained Jennie Leander as one assistant coach.
About a week later, Bento called Cronin. About a week after that, Cronin joined the Broncos' staff.
"I am very happy to have Katie join our coaching staff at Santa Clara," Bento said the day Cronin was hired. "She is a hard worker, is enthusiastic and has great passion for the game. Katie is the type of person who will do whatever it takes to get the job done."
The enthusiasm and passion for basketball came out clearly in a phone conversation Monday with Cronin, who was in San Rafael, Calif., watching a high school all-star tournament.
"In the first five minutes I knew she was a good person and a good coach," Cronin said. "She called me and asked if I wanted to coach; I hadn't even thought about it."
Cronin, who graduated from CSU in 2000, had been pursuing a playing career more than a coaching one. Although she was an assistant coach at Seton Hall during the 2000-2001 season, Cronin also spent time before and after that season playing professionally in Israel and Germany.
She also had tryouts with the WNBA's Storm and New York Liberty, where former CSU teammate Becky Hammon is a solid player.
Cronin, a 6-foot forward, was a strong rebounder and tenacious defender during a college career. She was good enough to earn four all-conference awards and honorable mention All-America her senior season and finish as CSU's No. 2 career scorer (behind Hammon) and No. 3 career rebounder. But those accolades weren't enough for her to make it to the WNBA.
"I have no idea," she said. "It just wasn't for me.
"I believe I'm supposed to be in a certain place at a certain time, and the WNBA wasn't that place or time."
Santa Clara, though, is. Cronin will share responsibilities in all areas of the program, including recruiting.
"I think the biggest part of my job is recruiting, and that's what I want to do," Cronin said. "I have to make my step up into the world, and she had faith that I could do it."
Interestingly, their paths hadn't crossed much. Bento was an assistant coach at San Jose State during part of Cronin's playing career with the Rams, and she was an assistant at Syracuse when Cronin spent the one year at Seton Hall.
"It's amazing," Cronin said. "She had faith that I could do the job."
Cronin said that a week after being hired, she drove her Honda Civic to the Bay Area, took three days to find an apartment in the San Jose suburb of Campbell and has been on the road recruiting ever since.
"I've been to Oregon, Washington, Irvine (Calif.) and San Rafael," Cronin said. "August first is when I will return back home."
Then, she'll catch her breath -- and perhaps recall that phone call.