MALS Alumni Lunch with Courtney Banghart

Courtney Banghart ’00, MALS ’07 shared stories of leadership and life lessons learned along the way.

Current and former MALS students, faculty, and staff gathered over lunch at the Hanover Inn on August 22 to share memories of MALS, rekindle old friendships, and discover new ones at the 2016 MALS Alumni Association Luncheon and Meeting.  

Presided over by MALS chairman, Professor Don Pease, the proceedings included a fond and grateful appreciation of outgoing MALS Alumni Association President Mike Beahan and a warm welcome to Lyn Lord who will be taking the reins. Pease also recognized Dean Kull, who is now officially Dean of the School of Graduate and Advanced Studies at Dartmouth, before passing the mic to Beahan to welcome featured speaker, Courtney Banghart ’00, MALS ’07.

Banghart, who is head coach of women’s basketball at Princeton University, earned her undergraduate degree in neuroscience, and then returned to Dartmouth to graduate from the MALS program in ’07. She is the winningest coach in women’s basketball history at Princeton, the 2015 Naismith National Coach of the Year, and one of Fortune magazine’s 50 Greatest Leaders in 2015.

The theme of Coach Banghart’s talk was "Leadership and Life Lessons Learned Along the Way." Speaking of her experience at Dartmouth she noted that the MALS program afforded her “the privilege of recognizing her worth as a person, and belief in herself.” She also accredited the MALS program with helping her find her passion.

Banghart reminisced on her times at Dartmouth, saying: “I found the smartest people to surround myself with. People who were not content to live their summers in their parents’ basements (referring to her naïve notions of summers as an undergrad).”

Shortly after completing her thesis entitled "Leaders Speak: An Oral History of Great Collegiate Sport Leaders," she was offered the position of head coach at Princeton. Banghart joked that she was initially hesitant to accept as she was also awaiting a decision on her application to The Amazing Race.

Since then, her teams have won five Ivy League outright championships from 2010 through 2015, and, as a result, appeared in five NCAA Women's Division I Tournaments and a sixth "at-large" appearance in 2016. Her 2014–15 team was one of the 32 remaining teams in the 2015 tournament.

The four cornerstones of her coaching philosophy are people-centered and frame her relational approach to leadership, which she outlined as: 1. People acquisition: “who you bring with you and who brings you are equally important.” 2. People development: teaching “the value of being part of something bigger than yourself.” 3. People evaluation 4. Controlling the controllers.

The fourth point she illustrated was with reference to the many photos that show her with her arms folded and one finger over her lips as she watches her team. “This is me holding in the emotions that would otherwise control the situation,” she explains. “It’s difficult to hold in the emotion of the game, but it’s important,” she said. Her teams know when they mess up; they don’t need her yelling at them when they do it. “After losses we assess, and put into practice what we learn.” She wants her team to see poise and confidence and to exhibit the same.

“Walking the line between community builder and competitor can be a challenge,” she said of her leadership style. A commitment to being the best version of herself informs her relational approach to coaching, and encourages others to “dare to be relentless.”

Courtney Banghart has appeared in Fortune magazine’s list of most influential leaders, along with Jeff Bezos, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Pope Francis. “Unbelievable!” exclaimed outgoing MALS Alumni president Beahan. Not because such a high accolade was out of the realm of possibility, but because it was so fantastically possible.

You can follow Coach Banghart on Twitter: