Five questions with Georgia’s Katie Abrahamson-Henderson

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

Credit: Tony Walsh/UGAAA

ATHENS — On Friday morning, Katie Abrahamson-Henderson landed at Athens Ben-Epps Airport to set the process of becoming the third head coach in Georgia women’s basketball history into motion. She stepped foot back in the Classic City, a place that molded her career as player and coach, for the first time in 30 years.

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A player from 1985 to 1987 under legendary Lady Bulldogs coach Andy Landers, Abrahamson-Henderson noticed a few different things about Athens. The town is more “hip,” as Abrahamson-Henderson put it, with much more growth than from three-plus decades ago. She took a tour around campus and reminisced about her old digs, the Oglethorpe dorms. She saw new buildings around it, and her beloved swimming pool near the dorm rooms didn’t exist any longer.

A return to a place she held so much value in meant a new beginning. She’s back as the Lady Bulldogs’ leader.

“I believe in winning,” Abrahamson-Henderson said on the Stegeman Coliseum floor in front of a crowd of a few hundred people. “The No. 1 reason I coach is to empower women, period.”

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Here are five questions with Georgia’s new head coach:

Q: What will be your main priority with current players on the roster and convincing them to stay on board?

Note: Georgia has had two players enter the transfer portal, freshman Reigan Richardson and sophomore Sarah Ashlee Barker (committed to Alabama). The Lady Bulldogs also have seen five-star Janiah Barker and 2023 guard Diana Collins decommit from the program.

A: I want them to know we’re going to be there for them and become their No. 1 fans. I don’t want it to be that you just played for me or my coaches. You can’t win unless it is about the team. All of us have to be together. That’s what we try to get together.

We had a Zoom call, and that was my first time seeing them face-to-face. I knew they were going through it a little bit. We brought in the (assistant) coaches last night, and they loosened up and got to know our personalities. I wanted them to know me, and I saw them more relaxed when speaking up there.

Q: Georgia has centered itself around being a culture-first program for quite some time. How do you continue that while putting your own stamp on the program?

A: It’s about continuing to be me. My staff will continue to be them. It’s always going to be a family atmosphere. It’s a cliché, and a lot of people say that, but if you look at my staff and how long we’ve been together, we’re a family. My husband (Michael) is stuck with me. After talking with people, you see that the UGA family is big. There’s a Georgia pride, and you feel it. My history as a player will bring the extended family here. You’re going to see how that evolves.

Q: How does the continuity within your coaching staff help in recruiting, and what will be the priority?

A: We’re still in the process of what we’re doing and who I’m going to hire, but it’s always going to be about “we” and not about me.

I’ve just been very blessed to have coaches that played for me, that enjoyed playing for me, that wanted to get into coaching, and I’ve been blessed to have the ability to hire some people that have been with me, I mean, for 12 years, 15 years.

I think the continuity for all my teams that I’ve coached, that was really big because these coaches, they really know me. They know my philosophy. They know everything about me. That’s super big. The continuity and the consistency, I think, is really, really big.

Q: You’re a former Georgia player but left the program to play for C. Vivian Stringer at Iowa. Why did you leave Georgia, and what are your thoughts on the current age of the transfer portal?

A: Back then, obviously, I was 18, 19 years old. At the time I was a decent basketball player, and I was recruited. I love coach Landers. I came down here, and I was just homesick. That was a lot.

I got to go home and play for C. Vivian Stringer. Did I know I was going to be a coach? Absolutely not. That’s not what I wanted to do. I just wanted to empower women.

Looking back on my career, my basketball career and my coaching career, I’ve been very blessed to play for two Hall of Fame coaches, work for several different Hall of Fame coaches. So I think that was God’s plan for me to just be able to learn a lot from some really, really good coaches.

Q: What excites you most about being back at Georgia?

A: Being back here where I started my college career, it’s a dream. To be able to come back and lead this historic program is very exhilarating to me. My staff and I have rebuilt two programs (at Albany and Central Florida). Taking them to the bottom, all the way from the bottom all the way to the top, winning conference championships and going to the NCAA Tournament every single year. That’s a huge accomplishment for me and my staff.

Georgia women’s basketball, on the other hand, is a winning program already. It’s a winning program already. I can only imagine where we could go from here.