LATROBE (KDKA) – The Saint Vincent College community is in mourning following the loss of its head women’s basketball coach.
Long-time coach Kristen Zawacki was found dead on Christmas in her home.
Her life and legacy were being remembered today by family and friends.
She was the face of women’s athletics at the college’s Latrobe campus. Zawacki, 52, who was the school’s first and only women’s basketball coach, was found dead from an apparent heart attack.
College President Brother Norman Hipps said it’s a big loss for the players, college and community.
“There’s a hole in our heart and it will remain there, but we will be together. We will pray, tell stories,” he said.
Zawacki, a Penn State graduate, came to Saint Vincent in 1983 to start a basketball program when the college switched from all men to co-ed. By 1984, her newly-recruited team was already in the playoffs.
“She herself was a strong woman; she recruited good women, her graduates from the program,” said Br. Hipps. “I think her graduation rate is probably about 96 percent.”
Lisa Riley was an All-American who played for the Lady Bearcats from 1984 to 1988. She still holds the record for 44-points in a game.
“She just always strived to make you a better person instead of downing you. She tried to make you better, give you some positive reinforcement,” said Riley of her former coach. “You worked hard because of her; you wanted to do good because of her.”
Zawacki developed a successful program, earning her 500th career victory in 2009. Recently, she talked about expectations for this season.
“I’m pretty pleased with where we are,” she said. “I think we’re a little bit behind where we would like to be in terms of getting us to the competitive level.”
However, she was much more than a basketball coach for people who knew her.
“Just in life in general, treating people good, treating them with respect,” added Riley. “She was a good person to be around. If you ever needed anything, her door was always open. “
For those reasons and many more, Zawacki will be sorely missed on campus.
A complete obituary and funeral arrangements for Zawacki will be posted on the Saint Vincent College website as soon as they’re available.
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