June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Girls basketball: Former player set to coach the Bees

MEDINA — The new head coach of the Medina girls basketball program isn’t new at all.

Karen Kase, a 1995 graduate of the school and the Bees’ junior varsity coach last season, was hired Thursday to succeed Chris Hassinger, pending school board approval at a May 20 meeting.

Hassinger resigned after compiling a 63-26 record over four seasons. He won Northeast Ohio Conference River Division titles in his last three years.

“I’m really, really, really excited,” Kase said. “I’m grateful and appreciative to (Medina athletic director) Jeff Harrison and to Hass. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Hass. He gave me an opportunity to help out and I’m very thankful for that.”

Kase, who spent 2006-10 living in New York City while working as the WNBA’s senior manager of communications, has also worked in the public relations departments of numerous WNBA teams and for the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.

She was a volunteer varsity assistant to Hassinger in 2011-12 and a volunteer junior varsity coach in the program last season. In 2010-11, she volunteered her time and helped the program in a variety of ways, but didn’t have any kind of title.

“It’s been the most rewarding experience of my life,” the 35-year-old said. “I love helping young women shape their future and answering any questions they might have. I was doing a lot of the same things in the WNBA with older players, but it feels great to be back at Medina.”

The Bees, who went 16-7 overall and 8-2 in the River Division last season, return a decent crop of players, headed by Casey Midlik, Madi Tata and Holly Rhodes.

Because Hassinger made it a priority to develop all levels of the program, from the youth system on up, Medina also has talented players moving up through the system. A number of the older players will be counted on to fill spots in the varsity team’s rotation next season.

“We’re going to continue to do a lot of the things that have been in the system,” Kase said. “Hass did a great job the last four years, so we’re going to continue to run an up-tempo, in-your-face defense.

“We’ll be a little taller and more athletic with some of the girls coming up, so there will be some changes. We probably won’t run as many set plays on offense, but we’ll continue to do many of the things we’ve done the last few years because they’ve been successful.”

So has the 5-foot-8 Kase, who earned 11 letters at Medina and was a multiple All-Gazette pick in soccer, basketball and softball, leading to her eventual induction into the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame.

Kase went on to play soccer at Xavier University, earning a degree in sports management and business in 1999.

From there, she moved to California and did a PR internship for what is now the Pacific-12 Conference. At the same time, she was working in the PR department for the Warriors, which led to a job with the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA.

Kase spent the 2002-03 season working for the Cavs, who were coached by John Lucas and featured Ricky Davis as their star player at the time.

After that, she worked for the Charlotte Sting of the WNBA, then in June 2006 became senior manager of communications for the entire league, a job she held for four years.

After giving up that position, she went to Ireland and worked on an organic farm, then returned to Medina and started volunteering with the Medina girls basketball program in the 2010-11 season.

Kase, who lives in Strongsville and expects to have her coaching staff finalized in about a week, currently works as the marketing manager for 1994 Medina graduate Mike Pap’s dental office and restaurant/bar business.

“It’s the perfect job for me because Mike is one of my best friends and the hours are flexible, which allows me to coach,” Kase said. “I can’t wait to get started.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.