Hofstra Director of Athletics Rick Cole Jr. welcomes Danielle Santos...

Hofstra Director of Athletics Rick Cole Jr. welcomes Danielle Santos Atkinson as the new head coach of Hofstra women's basketball at the Mack Sports & Exhibition Complex on Monday, April 15, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Danielle Santos Atkinson era has begun at Hofstra. Now it’s up to her to mold what that looks like.

Santos, who was hired as Hofstra’s new women’s basketball coach over the weekend, was officially introduced at a news conference at the campus’ David S. Mack Complex Monday morning.

Santos, 35, who began her coaching career as an assistant at Hofstra from 2006-10, returns as head coach after stops at four other schools. Last season, she was the associate head coach at Pittsburgh. She’s also been an assistant at Illinois State, Kentucky and Florida State.  Hofstra is Santos’ first head-coaching job. She replaced Krista Kilburn-Steveskey, who resigned last month.

“It’s really come full circle,” said Santos, who played at Florida from 2002-06. “This is where I started. This is where I got my first taste of what it’s like to be a basketball coach and be part of the basketball profession. To be able to come back here, leave my mark and hopefully leave a legacy is very special.”

Santos has a reputation as one of the best recruiters in the country, athletic director Rick Cole Jr. said.

“For me, it was everything,” Cole said of Santos’ recruiting prowess.  “Great leadership, whether it’s being a coach or a head of an organization, is about identifying, recruiting, retaining, developing and supporting people. That’s the residual to results. You could have the nicest arena in the world, but at the end of the day, people win.”

Santos said she wants to bring in ‘high-character’ players who can be a part of what she hopes will be a system defined by a fast- paced offense and aggressive defense.

“The ability to relate to the girls in recruiting has been a strength of mine,” Santos said. “I care about them as people. I don't just  care about what they can bring to our university, but what we can do for them during their four years that they’re here. Players feel that and understand that, families believe that and understand that.”

Hofstra finished 11-22 this past season, including a 3-15 CAA record. The season ended on a high note, with the Pride knocking off top-seeded James Madison in the quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament.

“I think that the team is very well-balanced in terms of senior leadership and the underclassmen that they have,” Santos said. “I’ve liked watching them. Watching them in that JMU game, you got to see so much potential that this team has as the rising seniors become seniors, take that leadership role, and as the underclassmen continue to grow.”

The players are excited about the hire as well.

“I didn’t hear anything about her until she came up as a candidate,” junior guard Ana Hernandez Gil said. “Then, we searched on Google about who she was and all the things she had done and we were like, ‘Wow. This is great.’ We were all very happy.”

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months