Relationships drive Ganiyat Adeduntan: from her connection with her older brother, who taught her the fundamentals of basketball; to her admiration for her father, who showed her a path toward medicine; to the players she coaches. “My number one core value is love, and it encompasses relationships,” says Adeduntan, who was recently appointed Colgate’s ninth women’s basketball head coach.
After spending 7 years as a nurse practitioner, Adeduntan switched careers and got back on the court. She held roles at Wheelock College, Northeastern, and George Washington before accepting the top position at Colgate.
How did you make the decision to leave your career as a nurse practitioner and devote your life to the game?
My dad is a vascular surgeon, and he was a driving force behind me wanting to do something in the health care field. I knew I wanted to help people. [I asked myself] ‘How can I impact someone’s life? How can I be an advocate for someone to make their situation better?’ [Eventually, I] had the opportunity to coach Division III. That was when I was like, ‘This is it. This is my passion.’ And everything fell into place.
Do any of your approaches to nursing carry over to coaching?
A lot of those things transfer over: the holistic approach I use, the whole well-being of a student-athlete, understanding that it’s not just about the physical piece and what they can do for me, but ultimately how I can serve them. How can I make them better human beings who are able to thrive and be successful in the world?
How have you bonded with Colgate players so far?
On the first day I got the job, I called every single student-athlete and had a FaceTime call. I told them, ‘I’m not going to call you on the phone. I need to see you. I want you to see me because we’ve got to make this as real as possible.’ We’ve had conversations about how relationships are two-way. We have small group and full team conversations over Zoom as well.
What’s your mantra?
Right before I moved, I wrote out, ‘Don’t think, just go.’ Today’s your opportunity. You can’t think about tomorrow or yesterday — the only opportunity you have is right in front of you. Being present and enjoying the day-to-day; every opportunity I get, [I try to] find peace in the chaos.
What are your goals for the team in the coming months?
Team building and relationships are going to be important to us. Also, teaching our players how to compete, because that’s the joy: to come in every day and have this competitiveness. I’m really competitive — with everything. I want to be a high achiever in everything I do. I want to share that with our players and have them mirror that work ethic.
The dream and the goal ultimately is to win. We want to be at the top of the conference. We’re going to set goals for ourselves, [starting with] small ones, areas we know we can get better at, and we’re going to celebrate [those small wins].
What about longer-term goals?
I want to win the Patriot League championship. I want to go to the NCAA tournament. Postseason play is always going to be the goal every single year. Another goal, which will also be a standard and expectation, is to make sure we’re still achieving academically at a very high level and that our players are growing as people every single day.