OSIPOFF: Kelly Komara nets dream job
By MICHAEL OSIPOFF email@example.com Twitter: @MichaelOsipoff May 7, 2014 11:00PM
Photo - Bill Ziskin.
Updated: June 10, 2014 6:41AM
During a “whirlwind” several days, Kelly Komara said she barely has had time to “blink.”
But she’s been loving every frantic nanosecond of it, because she’s living a dream, having returned to a place she considers home.
On Monday, Komara — the Schererville native who won Indiana Miss Basketball at Lake Central in 1998, propelling the Indians to a Class 4A runner-up finish — was introduced as an assistant coach at Purdue, where she shined as a guard, winning a national championship in 1999 and reaching the title game in 2001.
The most recent stop on her coaching journey — one that she always had envisioned would land her back with the Boilermakers — was at Albany, as the Great Danes made the NCAA Tournament in both of her seasons on their staff. She was scheduled to head back to New York on Thursday to tie up some loose ends, before returning to West Lafayette later this month.
Komara described looking out the window of her hotel room on Monday night, how she recalled walking up and down those streets, having had dinner at this restaurant and that.
“It’s so familiar, it feels so right,” she said. “You can’t ask for anything better than when you mix your passion and your career.”
Komara’s career has taken her to Auburn (twice, as a graduate assistant from 2004-06 and as video coordinator for four seasons from 2007-11), Northwestern (assistant in 2006-07), Valparaiso (assistant in 2011-12), and Albany. But, again, Purdue remained close to her heart and mind.
A few weeks ago, Komara had a first interview with coach Sharon Versyp. A couple of weeks later, the fellow former Boilermakers standout guard called again for a second interview. At the end of that conversation, Versyp told Komara she would make a decision that evening.
Komara said it made for “an interesting afternoon, to say the least.
“I thought, ‘My life could change forever.’”
It did, as Versyp offered the job. Komara accepted immediately — well, as soon as she could catch her breath.
“It was a dream come true for me,” said Komara, who so far has been focusing on familiarizing herself with the Boilermakers roster, their incoming signees, 2015 commits, and 2016 and ’17 targets.
Komara was expected to coach the guards at Purdue, after actually having worked with the posts at Albany. She has recruiting ties to the Northeast, South and, of course, Midwest. That diverse background, on and off the court, should serve her well in this position.
As a player with the Boilermakers, she racked up an array of accolades, including making the All-Big Ten first team as a senior in 2002 (with honorable mention selections the previous two seasons), winning the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award that season, and earning Most Outstanding Player of the Mideast Regional in the 2001 NCAA Tournament. But by no means has she forgotten her region roots.
“I really, really hope so,” Komara, who played briefly for the Indiana Fever and later for the Grand Rapids Blizzard in the National Women’s Basketball League, said when asked about recruiting the area. “That’s one of the things I’m going to try to do. The region produces some great athletes. With me being the bridge to bring the two together, we can really wok the region hard, find some of those phenomenal players, just because of the love Northwest Indiana has for Purdue.”
These are indeed heady times for former area (and Purdue) players being part of the Boilermakers’ basketball staffs. Assistant coach Brandon Brantley, an East Chicago native and Andrean graduate; and assistant video coordinator Kenneth Lowe, a West Side grad, both are entering their second season with the men’s program.
“It really speaks volumes about how great an outlet Northwest Indiana is for athletes not only committing in-state, but committing, leaving the state and coming back,” Komara said. “You see people who paved the way ahead of you, made this university a prominent university in the basketball world, do other things and come back. If you didn’t like the experience, you wouldn’t come back. It shows you the loyalty, and how wonderful the family atmosphere is here.”
Coincidentally, Komara has taken the last two positions that Christy Smith has vacated. When Smith left Valparaiso for Purdue in 2011 after three seasons, Komara joined the Crusaders; when Smith left Purdue for Arkansas — her alma mater — after three seasons, Komara rejoined the Boilermakers.
Never say never, but don’t expect a trifecta — “she just led me right through that path, but that would be the end of the road for me,” Komara said with a laugh. And though Komara has spoken about eventually running her own program, she isn’t overly anxious, given her new — and coveted — situation.
“Where you played is usually where you want to go back, it’s what’s in your heart,” said Komara, calling it a “no-brainer” to make such a move.
“One of the coolest things about the jobs that I’ve had, I’ve really been able to piece together my philosophy, my timeline, what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to get back here, learn from Coach Versyp and these great assistants. This was really the dream formula for me. Where that takes me, my goal was to get to here. I’d like to be here a long time.”