By Joshua Manly
Michelle Fortier is the winningest coach in Kalamazoo University
history, both in career wins with 131 and conference wins, 67. She
steps into a position that was vacated only days before the season
began, not knowing the team or the landscape, but not even this can
“She is really mellow and calm,” said Ally Smith, a junior
forward who transferred to Cal Poly from Southern Utah last season.
“She is completely different from any other coach I have ever had;
I mean she has the same mind but is really calm.”
Fortier moved to Cal Poly after being an assistant coach with
Division-I Southern Missouri State. The Redhawks won their
conference that season and gained a birth to the NCAA tournament
for the first time in the programs history.
She was named as the interim head coach after the original
candidate Kevin Kiernan left unexpectedly. Fortier never thought
about being the interim coach, acting as a leader for a team in
limbo from the beginning.
“I’m excited about it,” Fortier said in an interview before the
season began. “The girls deserve to have some leadership and I’m
looking forward to coming in and getting them ready for the
upcoming season. I felt good about my meetings with everyone at Cal
Poly Pomona and I enjoyed meeting the team. I’m grateful for this
Though the women’s team has not seen consistent success on the
court this season, however instead of focusing on the overall
record, Fortier chooses to hype every practice hoping that each
touch will bring more experience and more wins.
“Instead of going back to the entire game after a bad weekend
she will go through film of what we did right first, what we did
well as a team and individually,” said Smith. “A lot of my coaches
were really in your face a lot, trying to force you to goals
instead of helping you to them.”
Winning big after a losing season is nothing new to Fortier, who
has coached women’s basketball for the past 13 years across the
nation spending most of her career at Division II Kalamazoo
College. As head coach Fortier turned a team that went 2-23 in the
92-93 season in to a team that was close to dominant at 21-7 in
Fortier set the top marks in career wins at Kalamazoo, winning
131 games, and recorded 67 of those games in her conference, which
was a record as well.
“As a finalist during our search process, Michelle certainly
distinguished herself as a leader and someone who is highly capable
of leading our women’s basketball program,” said Brian Swanson, the
athletic director of Cal Poly for the last two seasons.
Fortier also prides herself in making her teams academically
strong as well, ensuring a future that involves more than just
basketball. She is part of an athletic department that is posting
more names on the Dean’s List than ever before.
“I believe that she will do an excellent job,” said Swanson.
“The teams Michelle has coached have been successful – both
academically and athletically – and I feel she will bring those
same results to Cal Poly Pomona.”
Improvements have already begun to show from Fortier’s coaching
style, the women’s basketball team has posted huge wins in their
non-conference play like their domination of Chaminade. Fortier has
also continued her conference record by posting three of the
women’s four wins against conference rivals.
“She can get really aggressive with us too,” said Smith. “There
is definitely a time in the game where she gets us to step it up. I
have played in her kind of offensive and defensive schemes before,
they are my favorite way to play.”
Joshua Manly can be reached by e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (909) 869-4630.
Fortier Unphased By Her Situation
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