Nov. 28, 2011
By John Hirn
Ram Alumni Athletes Association
There has never been a time in the history of Women's Basketball at Colorado State University greater than the period that Katie Cronin played on the Moby hardwoods. During the four seasons she played basketball for the Rams, CSU won 104 games and only lost 21. She also helped lead the Rams to two WAC Mountain Division Championships, one WAC championship and three NCAA Tournaments. In 2010 she was inducted into the 23rd class of the CSU Sports Hall of Fame.
A 1995 graduate of Horizon High School in Thornton, Colorado, Cronin fell in love with CSU the moment she arrived on the campus. She remembered, "I was invited to CSU's campus for a visit and on that day, I verbally committed. I can't explain why, but I just knew it was the right thing to do...It turned out to be the best and most important decision of my life."
Cronin immediately formed a friendship with fellow teammate and future CSU hall of famer Becky Hammon when they met at a summer training camp. The two roomed together all four years they were in school and made for a perfect combination on the court. They became the Pippen-Jordan, Ruth-Gehrig or Montana-Rice duo for CSU in the late 1990s.
However, unlike many sports where teammates compete with one another, Cronin and Hammon got along so well it helped the entire team play together to win championships. As Cronin said, "We all worked so hard, trusted each other, fought hard for each other, played great together and were happy when someone succeeded. There wasn't room on our team for negativity or bad intentions."
That group of players produced a winning combination which brought fans to Moby Arena to see Women's basketball like never before. Cronin remembered at the beginning of her CSU career there were barely 500 people in the seats to watch the Rams in action. By the end of that same season Moby Arena was sold out for the Wyoming game as the Rams tied for their first WAC championship in school history.
The average home attendance at Moby in 1994-95, before Cronin arrived, was 751 per game. However, by the time she reached her last game as a senior, the 1998-99 average attendance per game rose to 4,765. The Rams drew 80,999 fans in her last season, 71,235 more than had watched the team in the year before Cronin arrived.
What brought those fans to Moby was a brand of women's basketball that reached heights no other team in school history has ever reached. The 1998-99 team went 33-3 (.917) and ranked as high as fourth in the country along with schools like Tennessee, Purdue and UConn. Cronin said of those high national rankings, "We never really thought of our ranking that much, we just played hard, smart and tough...before we knew it we beat a few top 25 teams, ESPN was showing up at our practices and then we were ranked #4 in the Nation... then it really hit us!"
Cronin was a hard-fighting player on the court and soft spoken off the court. She received numerous awards and accolades for her style of play including being named to three all-conference teams, an honorable mention for the Kodak All-America team twice and honorable mention for AP All-American her senior year. However, when asked what her favorite award was during her playing career Cronin said, "My favorite award was an award that was given after each game. It was a huge pair of white Mickey Mouse gloves and they were given to the player who had the most `deflections' or touches on the ball in a game. We'd get to keep the gloves for the week... it was always my goal to get the gloves back the next game."
Katie Cronin played her last game for the Rams in 1999 and graduated from CSU in 2000 before moving on to a career in professional basketball and coaching. She played professionally for the first time during the summer of 2000 in Israel and returned to the US to become an assistant coach with Seton Hall in November of that same year. She then played in Germany before moving on as an assistant coach at Santa Clara College in 2002-2003.
In 2004 she joined the Colorado Chill of the NWBL and played for them until 2007 when she was called up by the Chicago Sky of the WNBA. After trying out for five different WNBA teams after her CSU career, Cronin finally got to play for Chicago and a year later played in Portugal before retiring from basketball in 2008.
Today Katie Cronin works in IT for a communications company in Denver and still keeps her heart and mind on CSU basketball. She admits that the coaching bug could still bite her again and enjoyed speaking to the team last year when she visited for a game at Moby.
Cronin also keeps in touch with her two best friends, Jacque Johnson (5th in all-time career three-pointers for CSU) and Becky Hammon who she used to play long and competitive games of Yahtzee with when they roomed together at CSU. Cronin said, "Yeah we're still attached at the hip and joke that we'll all be 90 years old in a nursing home talking about the good old days in Moby Arena! Yes we still play [Yahtzee] all the time...we Skype when she's overseas. She has her game and I have mine and we'll play via Skype video!"
Katie Cronin is easily one of the greatest basketball players in school history and continues to love her alma mater and what it did for her. She said, "My time at CSU shaped me into the person I am today. I had a very FUN basketball experience, learned discipline, respect, hard work, how to fight through adversity ....I met great people and many friends who I am still in contact with; two of them being my best friends today!"