Some 45 minutes before the introduction, Kaitlyn Fiorino still didn’t know who her coach was going to be.
The freshman from North Brunswick, N.J., had been recruited to King’s by Bryan Whitten, who had taken the Lady Monarchs to the NCAA tournament four times before she arrived on campus. But Whitten left for a Division I job before that 2005-06 season and the team was in the dark about who would be replacing him.
The school introduced Brian Donoghue to the team in September 2005 only shortly before the press conference where the rest of the area met him.
But Fiorino recognized the face when he first walked through the door.
Donoghue had stopped by Fiorino’s high school for his old job – assistant coach at Div. II East Stroudsburg – to recruit one of her teammates. Still, it was Fiorino that made a lasting impression on Donoghue.
Indeed, one of the factors that led Donoghue to take the King’s job was that he knew he’d be inheriting a talented roster – with Fiorino right at the top of the list.
The two learned on the job together and for the last four years they’ve been at the center of the latest era of Lady Monarchs basketball.
Fiorino, now a senior, has become one of the most prolific players in the tradition-rich history at King’s as they head into another postseason journey tonight.
She is King’s third all-time leading scorer at 1,512 points (14.1 ppg), having passed the 1,500 mark on senior day this past weekend. She has hit more three-pointers (253) than anyone else in program history.
“We’re only missing one piece of the puzzle right now,” Donoghue said. “We don’t have a banner yet.”
Fiorino and the Lady Monarchs begin a tough road to that elusive championship banner tonight when they travel to Misericordia for a first-round Freedom Conference tournament game.
The winner would then have to travel to top-seeded DeSales for the semifinals on Wednesday.
For Fiorino, the path started at Immaculata High School, where she began getting attention as a junior from Middle Atlantic Conference schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Though she didn’t finalize her decision right away, she still had a pretty good idea of where she would end up after taking a visit to the Wilkes-Barre campus.
“I waited until about March, after my season was over, but I knew for awhile I was going to come here,” said Fiorino, a 5-foot-8 guard. “It sounds cliché and it sounds kinda corny, but once I came here I felt right away that this was where I wanted to go.”
That feeling in particular helped soften the blow when Fiorino found out in the summer of 2005 that Whitten was taking an assistant coaching job at Div. I Virginia Commonwealth and wouldn’t be her coach after all.
Fiorino said she was “devastated” by the news at first, but Whitten was far from the only reason she settled on King’s.
Among the people she met while visiting the school were three players who were in their freshman seasons – Andrea Hochstuhl, Lauren Kendra and Jenna Palumbo. That group would be the one she ended up spending the most time with on the court.
“I liked the school, I loved the girls that I met when I came like Jenna and Andrea and Kendra and all of those girls,” she said. “So it wasn’t just about (Whitten).”
As a freshman, Fiorino bonded with those three and looked up to senior Beth Jordan, who led the team in scoring that season.
That group took its leadership cues from Jordan and developed into a strong nucleus for King’s during the past few seasons.
This year, however, Fiorino has had to do it without the other three, who graduated last spring.
“Being the old one – that’s definitely weird,” Fiorino said, laughing. “Most of my minutes had been with those three out there with me. You just get comfortable with people and it’s hard to move on sometimes.”
This year Fiorino was the one being looked up to by a group of seven freshmen. Her co-captain, fellow senior Andrea Carroll, tore an ACL during the summer and was out of the lineup entirely until this past week.
Fiorino was officially the center of attention.
“I was scared, but I was also excited for that because the same thing happened to me in high school, too – the class ahead of me was really good and I had played with them for awhile, so it was kind of the same thing.
“As much as I liked being the younger one and think that’s fun, I also like being the one that people look up to and being the captain. I enjoyed it this year.”
While becoming a more vocal leader was somewhat new to her, taking charge on the court wasn’t. Teams had already identified her as the Lady Monarchs’ most dangerous scorer the year before, especially when Hochstuhl missed time with injuries.
This season Fiorino finished the regular season scoring in double figures in 23 of 25 games, finishing in the top five in the league in scoring at 16.4 points per game.
Just as important, Donoghue can see the younger players looking up to her as she once looked up to Jordan. And those underclassmen want to win for Fiorino.
“I think there’s always been a tradition of that here, of passing the torch, so to speak,” Donoghue said. “These guys live it. It’s sort of neat to see as the older guys like Kate leave, the younger guys know it’s their job to get the older guys into the playoffs. Kate pushed to get Beth into the playoffs and now we’ve had people pushing to get Kate into the playoffs.”
As fate would have it, Fiorino and Carroll are the first players that Donoghue has coached for an entire four-year career. His first coaching job was at Penn State Delaware County – a two-year branch campus – and he left East Stroudsburg after three years.
That made this past weekend’s senior day ceremony even more significant for him.
“To coach her for four years, to coach Andrea for four years, it’s a big deal,” Donoghue said.
That being said, coach and captain have resisted the urge to sit down and have a big “remember when” session.
There are still games to be played and it’s not quite time to bring up all of the old memories.
“Exactly,” Fiorino said. “Because I hope to make some more.”
Freedom Conference tournament
No. 5 King’s (10-15, 8-8)
at No. 4 Misericordia (13-12, 8-8)
7 p.m. today
Anderson Center, Dallas
King’s (10-15, 8-8)
G Brittany Muscatell (Fr.)…6.3 ppg
G Kaitlyn Fiorino (Sr.)…16.4
G Paige Carlin (Fr.)…6.2
F Julianna Lynott (Fr.)…5.2
F Kaitlyn Malshefski (Jr.)…6.7
Misericordia (13-12, 8-8)
G Lindsey Sykes (Sr.)…5.0 ppg
G Courtney Sykes (So.)…7.5
G Vanessa Wright (Jr.)…6.1
G Jesse Robinson (Fr.)…8.9
F Lacey DeGraw (Sr.)…16.4
Dec. 17: Misericordia 39, King’s 34
Feb. 4: King’s 45, Misericordia 44