Kristin Haynie begins new chapter for CMU women’s basketball

'I always had a ball in my hand, and it's all I've known'

Central Michigan’s head women’s basketball coach Kristin Haynie blows a whistle during practice, Thursday, Nov. 2 in McGuirk Arena. Haynie previously served as CMU's assistant coach under Sue Guevara from 2014-2017.

When new women’s basketball head coach Kristin Haynie stepped up to the podium to address the Central Michigan community for the first time, she confidently said: “I am new to being a head coach, but I am not new to winning.” 

It was a sign of hope for women’s basketball fans, as the Chippewas have experienced two-straight losing seasons with an overall 10-48 record. Now, CMU starts a new era with Haynie at the forefront. 

Even before coming into this role, Haynie had a passion for basketball. Starting from a young age, it was her family who encouraged her to be active, and she remembers sports always being in the picture. 

“Just growing up, I always had a ball in my hand, and it’s all I’ve known,” Haynie said. “And you know, when you have passion for something, you love something, you want to just keep doing it.”

It was that love for the sport that started at a young age that made her want to continue playing and eventually move on to coaching.  

Playing at the highest level

Haynie has had a successful career up to this point, starting as a player at Michigan State University. 

During her time with the Spartans, Haynie raked in the accolades, becoming the career leader in assists with 547 and steals with 346. She also ranks 15th in career scoring with the Spartans, scoring 1,199 points. 

Along with solidifying her name in the record book at MSU, she led her team in the point guard position to the program’s first Final Four and NCAA championship game appearance, in 2005. 

“It was just a very unique team as we kept getting older,” Haynie said. “We just really trusted in the system and trusted the coaches and bought into what they wanted us to do. And so to be able to play in the national championship game is very humbling. Not a lot of people can say that they have played in the national championship game.” 

Haynie said having the experience at the college level helps her relate to the players she coaches. 

“I know what the players go through, when we’re tough (on them) and we’re running and adversity hits,” Haynie said. “We’ve been through it, as (players) ourselves, so just putting myself back into their shoes.

“I think that was one of the biggest parts of basketball ... the mental toughness. It’s easy to do drills and to play, but we have to put them in situations that they will face in games.”  

Not only does Haynie know what it takes to be a student athlete, she also knows how to win at the highest college level, having success in the national tournament.  

“I’ve been successful as a player and a coach, and so we know as a staff what success looks like,” Haynie said. “Everybody on staff has won championships at their other places where they’ve coached or as players. So, we have a lot of championship trophies between us, and we demand excellence because we know what it takes to get to the championship level.” 

Haynie continued her success on the professional court, having the opportunity to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association after she was picked ninth overall in the 2005 Draft by the Sacramento Monarchs.

“To play at the top level is just a blessing,” Haynie said. “Not a lot of people make it. There’s 144 players in the world that play in the WNBA, so it was just an amazing experience. To keep playing for the love of the game and to get paid for it.” 

She quickly found success in the league, as her team won the WNBA title in her first season. 

“I can’t help but smile and get chills that I was able to play at the highest level,” Haynie said. “And the connections and friends that I’ve made throughout my years … I’m very grateful for it.”

Continuing the love for the game

After retiring from the professional leagues following five seasons, Haynie’s love for the game kept her in basketball. This led to her first job as an assistant coach.

“I knew I wanted to stay in the sport, so I knew I wanted to coach,” Haynie said. “So, my first job was at Eastern Michigan assistant coach, and then that’s how I got into coaching.” 

From there, Haynie became an assistant coach under CMU legend Sue Guevara, followed by an assistant coaching role at MSU, coaching under CMU alum Suzy Merchant. 

“They’ve (Guevara and Merchant) won championships,” Haynie said. “They’ve had...really good coaching (careers). 

“Both I talk to and they know that they’re one call away. I can reach out to them any time, they’re my mentor on and off the floor. They’re both really good at X’s and O’s and how to run a program.” 

With her time as an assistant coach, Haynie said she learned how to put players first and to not be afraid to make mistakes. 

“You’re here for the players, so the relationships that you build with the players is a reason why I was an assistant coach,” Haynie said. “(It’s) to help them prepare for life after basketball. Also, a lot of these players have dreams to play pro, and so for me playing at the highest level, what does it take to get there, you know? I’m trying to mentor them and help them grow as people and as basketball players.”

The return to Mount Pleasant 

Following her time as an assistant coach, Haynie thought it was time to step into the leading role for the first time. She decided to return to Mount Pleasant and go for the job at CMU.

“I just thought I was ready,” Haynie said “I have been equipped with a lot of tools, playing wise and then also, obviously, being an assistant coach under really good coaches. And so I thought it was time. I was itching to see what running your own program was all about.” 

As she steps into the new role, the women’s basketball team is rebuilding. Not only is there a whole new staff, but there are only 10 players on the roster, with seven of them returning from last year. 

Even though the roster is small and there are a lot of new factors to this team, Haynie is proud of how the players have bought into the new system and the growth they have had throughout the offseason. 

“I love coming to work every day,” Haynie said. “The women, they’ve really bought in. The players have bought into the system and what we’re doing. Pretty good work ethic and the attitudes are great, and so it makes coming to practice fun. 

“Obviously we have a lot of work to do. And we continue to try and get better every single day. It’s definitely a process. It’s not gonna happen overnight.” 

Haynie has made it a point to get to know these players, holding one-on-one meetings with every team member. She said it is important as a coach to get to know the women not only as players but as people. 

Getting to know them can help the team reach their goals which Haynie said is just getting better everyday.

“One day at a time, one game at a time.” Haynie said. “We just want to get better and better and then prepare for the conference play.

“Going to Cleveland (for the MAC tournament) ... is definitely a goal and we’re gonna get there.” 

Haynie said she is excited to get back to the Mount Pleasant community, specifically the food spots, including Max and Emily’s and Doozies for ice cream. 

Apart from coaching, Haynie said she enjoys spending time with her wife and two kids, along with playing cards with her friends. 

“The support by my family is awesome,” Haynie said. “You know, both of my kids want to know everyone’s names and they want to be around them as much as possible. And then my wife obviously is a really big supporter. She played Division I basketball as well, so she knows this life and how crazy it is.”