Achter builds toward a future at Loyola University Chicago

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CHICAGO (WTVG) - Kate Achter didn't even apply for this job.

In fact, the former MAC Women's Basketball Player of the Year with the Falcons only had one interview for a head coaching position before Loyola University Chicago called.

Achter's first stint as a college head coach comes in part to the old phrase, "it's not what you know, but who you know." The "who" is Loyola athletic director Steve Watson.

Watson was the athletic director at St. Bonaventure University for seven years, which is where knew Achter's work as an assistant coach with the women's basketball team. It also helps Watson too played hoops for the Falcons as he graduated from BGSU in 1990.

"(Steve) said 'Keep your phone on, I'm sure I'll call you soon,'" Achter said. "I laughed it off and then got a call at our lake house asking if I would be interested. I have an agent who usually handles that sort of thing.

"I would certainly consider Steve a friend, he's a former (Bowling Green) guy. It is very important to work for someone you trust when you are taking your first head coaching job because you're going to struggle and you want to know someone has your back. I know Steve has my back"

There are low expectations for Achter and the Ramblers this year because the 30-year-old walked into a unique situation on the North Side of Chicago last summer.

Loyola had just fired Sheryl Swoops - a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame from her time as a player. The change in leadership at Loyola came after a two-and-a-half month investigation into allegations Swoops mistreated players.

Nearly the entire women's basketball roster wanted out of the school.

"When I took over, there were three freshman that had signed for sure, two sophomores who decided to stay and I had to convince the rest of the roster," Achter said. "Some of those were meetings across the country, I had to fly out. I had to shake some hands and assure parents it was going to be OK. Some of those I just picked up the phone and I said, 'Hey, we're going to practice. I think you should be there.'"

One of those players is sophomore guard Citiana Negatu from near Washington, D.C.

"This year is a huge change especially because she is a young coach," Negatu said. "I've been able to have a better relationship (with Kate) and am more able to relate with her. On the court, she's an enthusiastic, passionate person.

"It helps with team chemistry and it helps we're from everywhere and she holds us together."

Bowling Green State University is not far from Achter's mind as she navigates the map she has for her program. Former Falcons women's basketball coach Curt Miller and current coach Jennifer Roos are frequently on Achter's outgoing call list.

"It's hard for me to separate my time as a player to what these kids are going through," Achter said. "I think anytime you have an experience, you need to separate the emotion out of it.

"I'm also driven very differently than the players I get to coach. As much as I look back on those days (at BGSU), those are the days I want to get to, I want our players to experience those. I have to be very real in understanding not everyone is driven like I am or had teammates like I did."

The clock is ticking down on year one for the Clay High School graduate, but don't tell that to Achter.

"You want to talk about winning," Achter said. "I'm 30-years-old and I get to lead my own program in the City of Chicago. When I drive in from Toledo and see the skyline, it hits me I'm here. Then we have really hard days of practice and I'm like, 'I'm a 30-year-old head coach that has to lead 19-22 year-olds.'"

Ten college kids who decided to give this young head coach a try.