Maria Kasza’s love of basketball began as a kid in Kalkaska. Now, that love of the game has taken to her from the Blazers to the Big Ten.
Kasza was a high school standout for Kalkaska and went on to play collegiately at Michigan Tech. She credits a lot of her success to the high school coaches that helped shape her, Dave Dalton and Rik Ponstein.
“I got really lucky having great coaches and being in a small town,” said Kasza. “Dave Dalton as my basketball coach and Rik Ponstein as my softball coach. They really gave me all the tools and the vehicle to be successful.”
After her time at Michigan Tech, Kasza returned home to Kalkaska for a year and got her start in coaching with middle school boys.
“Daryl Dimon, who is a school teacher in Kalkaska that I graduated with, he was coaching 7th grade boys and I was like ‘well I’ll help you out, sounds fun!’” Kasza recalled with a laugh. “I always say that if I were to write a book, I would have a special chapter just for that little time period.”
Kasza also helped out with Dalton and the Blazers girls varsity team that season.
“That was really cool to be back where it all started,” she said.
Eventually, Kasza moved to Lansing and began coaching the freshman girls basketball team at Williamston as a second job. She fell in love with coaching and soon started seeking opportunities to coach full-time.
“I loved coaching. I was spending a lot of time watching film of ninth grade games and so on my lunch breaks I would apply for coaching jobs.”
Kasza got her first collegiate coaching opportunity at her alma mater, Michigan Tech, as an assistant coach in 2012. After a few years with the Huskies, she was hired as an assistant at Northern Illinois. Four years ago, she joined Robyn Fralick’s staff at Bowling Green.
Fralick led Bowling Green to a 31-7 record this past season and the Falcons reached the NIT Championship game. Fralick was hired by Michigan State to replace Suzy Merchant as head women’s basketball coach on March 31.
In the weeks since, Fralick has filled out her coaching staff. Kasza is among the assistants from Bowling Green she’s bringing with her to East Lansing.
“If someone were to ask me if Michigan State was my dream job a long time ago, that’s what I [would have said],” said Kasza. “But at the same time, I’ve always just really dreamed big where I’m at.”
Dreaming big has helped Kasza grow from a high school kid in Kalkaska to an assistant coach in the Big Ten. Kasza said she feels blessed by this opportunity with MSU and makes it a point to let gratitude be her guide.
“Five years ago I started journaling everyday. I try to be really grateful, I know that this is probably a rare opportunity to love something as much as I love basketball and get to make it my profession.”