After five years as an assistant to one of the winningest head coaches in Big Ten history, Kate Popovec will now get the chance to lead a team of her own. The former Wildcat forward announced this morning that she would be joining Bradley University in her first head coaching job for the 2022-2023 season.
Popovec will head to Peoria, Ill., to take over the Braves, a team that just suffered a 4-24 season including an abysmal 1-17 record in the Missouri Valley Conference. This came just one year after Bradley earned a 17-12 record and won the MVC to reach the NCAA Tournament as an 11-seed. Much of this drastic difference between seasons can be attributed to the transfer of former Brave Lasha Petree, who started for Rutgers in 2022, as well as a torn ACL that caused the program’s all-time leading scorer Gabi Haack to miss most of the year.
Popovec played under Joe McKeown from 2011 to 2013, appearing in 36 games as a reserve forward. She joined the staff in 2017 as an assistant coach and was named both the Recruiting Coordinator and Defensive Coordinator in 2018. This past season, she served as the Associate Head Coach.
As Defensive Coordinator, Popovec coached three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Veronica Burton as well as the best scoring defense in the B1G in 2019. She also worked with forwards Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, Abbie Wolf and Abi Scheid and was a key factor in the development of the 2020 Big Ten Regular Season Championship team. In her five seasons in Evanston, Northwestern had an overall record of 92-60, while going 48-38 in Big Ten play.
Popovec earned a reputation as one of the brightest assistant coaching minds and was greatly loved by players and coaching associates alike. The ‘Cats will certainly miss her presence on the sidelines moving forward as they prepare for a season without one of their most valuable assets.