The Kate Paye era arrives

Kate Paye bleeds Stanford. The former women’s basketball alum and long-time assistant coach was born at Stanford medical center, and her parents and siblings all attended Stanford. After she earned her bachelor’s degree in political science, she spent the off-seasons of her WNBA career pursuing a J.D. and MBA from the University, graduating with both degrees in 2003.

Now, after she Tara VanDerveer’s right-hand for 17 seasons, Paye will have a chance to lead the women’s basketball program at the school she has been devoted to for decades.

While Paye avoided comparing her coaching style to her predecessor’s, it appears that the program will maintain considerable continuity despite the coaching change. Paye announced during the press conference that she is retaining the entire coaching staff, while elevating former Director of Player Development Jeanette Pohlen to a bench position. 

Despite the continuities, there will also be unavoidable differences for Paye to navigate: The Paye era will begin in a new conference, as Stanford departs the PAC-12 next season. The ACC will present new challenges for the program, especially with cross-country travel. The team will make four cross-country trips to play eight conference opponents at away games. 

On the court, the conference change could impact Stanford’s style of play.

“It’s really more of a perimeter guard oriented league,” Paye said. “They don’t have the bigs that we’re used to seeing in the PAC-12.” 

Paye expressed a desire to play a fast, uptempo style and noted that the team didn’t push the pace as much as they would have wanted this past season. 

To help compensate for the increased conference travel, Paye said most of Stanford’s non-conference games involve west coast teams.

The team will also look very different next year, despite only losing three players. 

The dynamic front court duo of Cameron Brink and Kiki Iriafen are both gone, along with graduating senior Hannah Jump. The departure of Iriafen, who will graduate at the end of this year while having one more year of eligibility, will be an especially tough loss for the program to overcome. She was named the most improved player in the PAC-12 this season and recieved the Katrina McClain award for best power forward in the country. 

While Stanford will be losing the focal points of last season’s offense, the team has a bevy of young, talented players who have the potential to step into bigger roles. In addition, Paye confirmed that the team will look to the transfer portal for one or two new additions, having already set up visits with several potential transfers. But Paye said that Stanford will look to use the portal only as a tool, and that “[the] roster will never be built through the portal”.

Paye faces high expectations, as many will compare her success with her predecessor’s, but she isn’t worried about living in VanDerveer’s shadow.

“I am well aware that there is way too much work to be done to waste any energy on being anyone but myself,” Paye said.