OKEMOS – After spending the last 15 years playing college and professional basketball, former Okemos high school basketball player Kristen Rasmussen is glad to be home coaching her alma mater’s varsity girl’s basketball team.
“I was pregnant with my second child and we went in for a routine ultrasound and they found something abnormal,” Rasmussen said. “At that point, it was like, ‘You need to be around family.’ We were on the East Coast around no family. Obviously had good friends, but it was a real reality check of what’s most important here. All of the stars just kind of aligned and found out that the Okemos job was available so we thought, ‘You know what, let’s go home and be close to home,’ and that’s why we’re here.”
Rasmussen, a 6-4 forward, played college basketball for MSU from 1996-2000 where she averaged 12.7 points and 8.2 rebounds. She ranks second on Michigan State’s career block list. She was drafted 51st overall by the Utah Starzz in the 2000 WNBA Draft. She averaged 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds over her nine-year WNBA career.
Rasmussen admits she still wants to play and she thinks that shows in her coaching style and attitude. Her players described her as energetic, aggressive and upbeat.
“The way that I was on the court was just getting after it and being loud, and now that I’m not necessarily on the court, but on the side, I’m able to hopefully give my players that energy of, ‘Hey you guys can do this, we’ve got this, go dig deep,’” Rasmussen, 38, said. “I’m definitely not a quiet, laid back, just do whatever you want type of coach.”
Rasmussen’s high intensity coaching style led the Chiefs to a 15-8 record and a Class A District Finals appearance after finishing 7-14 last season under former head coach Tyler Hursey. Sophomore guard Laya Hartman credits Rasmussen for bringing a basketball presence back to Okemos.
“She just really cares about women’s basketball and just making us the best team that we can possibly be,” Hartman said.
Rasmussen believes the biggest difference from last year to this year is confidence. She sees the players growing and becoming more assertive.
“Everybody on the court can score, everybody on the court can play defense, everybody on the court can do all of the essentials and add to us being a successful team,” Rasmussen said.
This isn’t Rasmussen’s first coaching stop, as she was the women’s head coach at Simmons College (Boston) from 2011-2016. She had a 23-94 record in five seasons. However, Rasmussen didn’t have any high school coaching experience before taking the Okemos job, so she reached out for advice from Patty Terres, her former AAU coach.
“She’s an amazing coach, she’s an amazing person,” Rasmussen said. “She kind of gave me some tricks of the trade, but also be grounded, be real, be who you are. She’s helped me out not only in this position, but I wouldn’t be where I am or what I’ve done without Coach Terres.”
Rasmussen’s players respect her deep experience as a player, and know she is trying to make them better.
“I think it really impacted our team, because we trust her and we know that she’s played at a high level so we know that she has experience,” freshman guard Maddie Sermak said.
A lot of coaches can be great in terms of record, but Okemos’ players believe Rasmussen is special because she wins games and wants her players to succeed on and off the court.
“Some coaches coach just to coach, but she actually cares about you as a person and wants you to be the best person you can,” Hartman said.
Coming full circle back to the high school where she used to be the star has been fulfilling for Rasmussen. Juggling coaching with a young family is challenging, but she is making it work right now.
“I’m not sure how long I’ll coach, but I sure do love the game. I’d love to build up the program at OHS, however, going back to college is something I’ll always have in the back of my mind,” Rasmussen said. “I would love to build up my one-on-one individual coaching to help players in the mid-Michigan area improve their skills.”