A music business graduate from Birmingham-Southern College, Keidane (Kih-Dawn-EE) McAlpine had designs on moving to Atlanta to work in the music industry.
He soon realized his disposition and the music business were discordant. “I’m not mean enough for that,” he says with a laugh.
Fortunately, McAlpine’s time at college had created other, more harmonious, opportunities.
“The doors that kept opening were the soccer doors,” says McAlpine, who is now the Washington State women’s soccer coach.
After his college playing days, BSC women’s coach, Lorrin Etka-Shepherd, offered him a position.
“She said I got a parttime job if I want it,” he remembers. “Next thing you know I am a full-time assistant.”
And then head coach.
“She decided to retire,” he explains. “She said, ‘You’re taking over’ and I said ‘What?’
“I’m 26 at the time and trying to transition the program into the Division I level. Who knew?”
McAlpine served as head coach at BSC for five years and, in 2004, led the school to an NCAA postseason berth.
In 2006, he moved to Auburn as an assistant coach and helped guide the Tigers to six straight NCAA postseason appearances.
During the winter of 2012 he became the fifth head coach in the WSU program’s history.
Now it’s late May 2013 and McAlpine is between recruiting trips, having just returned from London. In a couple days, he leaves for New Jersey.
McAlpine inherited a team, from former head coach Matt Potter, that advanced to NCAA postseason play three of the last four seasons, including second round appearances in 2009 and 2011.
“You know you’ve got a program you can build on because it does have a foundation already set in place,” McAlpine says. “Now you’re adding your twist and hope to continue the building process.”
Considering his music background, it’s apt that his twist is up-tempo.
“I’ve always been a believer that the more you have the ball and the more opportunities you can create, the better chances you have of winning the game.”
It’s also a style he believes strikes a chord with the audience.
“I think it’s far easier to follow an up-tempo team. As long as they’re shooting a ball on goal it’s a good thing.”
Throughout his first season, McAlpine gradually implemented his up-tempo style, “adding small pieces week to week.”
A 1-0 victory over Washington in the 2012 regular season finale capped a 12-win season, and for the fourth time in five years, the Cougars earned a berth to postseason play.
As he enters his second season, McAlpine’s challenge is to advance the Cougars to the Sweet 16, something never done before.
“We’re definitely a program that’s established, but can it go another level?” McAlpine asks.
“Yes,” he answers.
It’s a message he delivers on his recruiting trips to London, New Jersey, and all points in between.
“Every player that we recruit, we tell them the goal is to find people who want to be the first at something. To be the first to make the Sweet 16, the first to make the Elite Eight, the first to make the Final Four, the first to win a championship, the first to do it again.”
And that’s music to Cougar fans’ ears.