A winning women’s basketball coach for UNLV

When University of Nevada, Las Vegas was searching for its next women’s basketball coach—a person that could return the proud program to its place among the nation’s best— former Lady Rebel All-American Kathy Olivier was hired as the eighth full-time head coach in UNLV women’s basketball on April 22, 2008.

As the head coach for the women’s basketball team, Olivier certainly strives to win games but the number one priority is for the students to graduate to pursue their chosen career. She also works with budgets, recruiting, scheduling and other duties throughout the year.

A native of Placentia, Calif., Olivier comes from an accomplished athletic family. Her sister Mary Ricks played on University of California, Los Angeles’ national championship softball team on a softball scholarship. “I had an older brother, Tom, who attended University of Southern California on a baseball scholarship. I tried to keep up with him. In our family, we were always competing. It was just not sports. We would see who could unload the dishwasher the fastest.” At one point, when Olivier returned home from college for the holidays, her younger sister’s coach asked her to help coach her sister’s high school team. “I thought I was going to be a teacher but I became a coach instead and I have loved it ever since.” She attended UNLV on a women’s basketball scholarship.

Olivier’s inspirations includes her brother, who was a good athlete. “I just loved being around him; he was so fun. The rest of my family also inspired me. They were very competitive and very athletic. We were always watching sports as well.”

Olivier credits many people for her success including Dan Ayala, who was the UNLV head women’s basketball coach when Olivier played, who was always there for his players as well as pushed them to be their best. Another mentor was Billie Moore, head coach for UCLA for a number of years and first coach in women’s basketball history to lead teams from two different schools to national championships. Olivier was her assistant coach at UCLA for eight years. Olivier was also an assistant to USC coach women’s basketball team, Linda Sharp, who won two back to back NCAA national championships. Olivier also admits she is a big Lakers’ fan as well as a fan of Coach Phil Jackson.

Olivier believes that participating in sports is very important for women. “It teaches women to be strong, how to take care of themselves, and how to get through adversity. It teach young girls how to get along with all types of people. It keeps you healthy and alert. It is such a blessing.” According to Olivier, it is one avenue to pay for a higher education. “If you are really good and a Division 1 athlete, you can get a scholarship through sports, even at junior college now.”

With women’s sports and her goals, “right now it is about spreading the word in Las Vegas about women’s basketball and how we have so many different young women on the team that are very strong role models and can become mentors for young girls attending school.” She would also like to see fan and community support filling the seats at Cox Pavilion to watch women’s sports and eventually have the women’s sports teams move to Thomas & Mack.

Olivier also believes that sports are one way to achieving and maintaining good health. “You need to be healthy to be successful in business, be a good friend and great family member.” In fact, Olivier passed on her athletic traits to her daughter whom she coached on the UCLA squad. As a coach and mentor, working with organizations such as Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada, Olivier is truly a Fearless Female.

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