Press, faculty, student athletes and alumni filled the basketball court in Draddy Gymnasium for a press conference on Friday. The Manhattan community welcomed Heather Vulin as the new women’s basketball head coach.
It was the second press conference for the athletic department in a month after introducing Marianne Reilly as the new athletic director on March 31. It took Reilly less than 30 days to get her first hire.
“It feels great to have gone through the process and all the candidates,” Reilly said. “It’s a sense of relief that it’s behind it us.”
Vulin comes to Manhattan with 16 years of coaching experience, spending 12 of those years as a recruiting coordinator. She has 14 winning seasons and has coached in the NEC, the Big East and the ACC. Her most recent accomplishment was helping Virginia Tech earn a visit to the WNIT.
“It’s a dream come true,” Vulin said of coming to Manhattan. “I wanted to be a head coach my whole life but to be at a Catholic institution is something that’s always been very important to me. I’ve spent 15 years of my career at Catholic institutions so I’m really excited for it. It really offers everything that I am looking for and I feel like it is a place where I’ll thrive.”
The announcement that Vulin was named Manhattan’s head coach came just last week, but she has already hit the ground running to prep for the new season.
“She’s already reached out to players that she’s been recruiting at her other institutions,” Reilly said. “She has an official visit set for next week. She’s looking at some transfers. She’ll decide if she wants to keep the staff that is already here or if she wants to hire new assistants.”
Vulin said in the press conference that she is honored to be Reilly’s first hire and that she is excited to work with someone who is so passionate. She turned to Reilly and said, “So far I’m the best hire you’ve had and I plan to keep it that way.”
Several basketball players, both men and women, were in attendance to welcome Vulin to the program. The women players looked on, observing their new coach and eager to start working with her.
“We’re really excited,” Amani Tatum, a guard for the women’s basketball team said. “A lot of people say that change is good and I think that this is what the program needed; someone like her who is excited and committed. We’re looking forward to it. We’re excited for what she is going to do.”
Reilly noted in the press conference that one of the several aspects that set Vulin apart from the other candidates was understanding the balance of academics and athletics at the Division I level. She said that Vulin is invested in Manhattan’s student athletes both now and in the future.
“I think she is going to hold people accountable,” Tatum said. “She’s going to have people working harder than they usually are, just bring a lot of energy and excitement to the program.”
Vulin’s previous experience includes six years at Sacred Heart, helping the team earn their first NCAA Tournament berth and overseeing recruitment that led to another NCAA appearance.
Then, she spent another six years as Villanova’s recruiting coordinator. She played a key part in the program advancing to two NCAA Tournaments and three WNIT appearances.
“I expect to win,” Vulin said. “I feel like I do things the right way. I’m committed to it, I work for it and I’m not afraid to go after it. I feel like my leadership will make an impact. I’m really excited for the opportunity.”
Now, she is vowing to bring that success to Manhattan. She plans to be a resource on the court and in the community. She wants Jasper athletics to be on the map across the country.
‘I’m very fortunate,” Vulin said. “A lot of times when you take over a job it’s because maybe there isn’t much talent there. But obviously we have our three returning scorers, we have Amani [Tatum] who’s defensive player of the year and Kayla [Grimme] had tremendous blocks this season. I would like to bring in some more players this year to give us some more depth.”
Tatum said that Vulin has already started working with the team. One thing that has stood out to her so far is that Vulin encouraged her new players to not dwell on the past and that they are all starting a new chapter together.
“I’m really big about once you know what you want, you can go after it,” Vulin said. “But if you are just focused on things in the past and you use that as a crutch then you can’t go forward, and the team can’t go forward.”
Vulin stressed the fact that this is a new chapter for the team and she plans to spend as much time with her players as she can in the last two weeks before summer break.
“I really feel that we have a great group and I can’t wait to get on the court with them,” she said.