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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

St. Joe’s basketball shaped Griffin family’s love for the game

Hannah and Kaylie Griffin have been around St. Joes basketball their entire lives.
Hannah and Kaylie Griffin have been around St. Joe’s basketball their entire lives. PHOTOS COURTESY OF CINDY GRIFFIN

When the St. Joe’s women’s basketball team won the Atlantic 10 championship in 2013, members of the program participated in the tradition of cutting down a piece of the net.

Alongside the team were two girls, years younger than the players on the team, partaking in the celebration: Kaylie and Hannah Griffin.

“Running on the court and being able to hug my mom and cutting down the net was one of my favorite memories and definitely something that I keep in my head now that I’m playing,” Kaylie Griffin said.

Kaylie and Hannah’s mom, Cindy Griffin, has just completed her 23rd season as the head coach of St. Joe’s women’s basketball team. As a former Hawk herself, who got the head-coaching job while she was engaged and started a family a few years later, she’s been around the program for half her life. Her children have been around the program for the entirety of theirs.

Growing up Griffins

Beyond A-10 championships, the Griffin girls grew up attending practices, traveling with the team when they could and interacting with players who became role models, Cindy Griffin said. She believes their upbringing helped them develop into college basketball players today, with Kaylie Griffin being a junior at St. Joe’s and Hannah Griffin being a first-year student at Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Cindy Griffin and her husband, Curtis Griffin , also have a son, Curtis Griffin Jr., who’s a first-year student at St. Joe’s Prep.

“They remember all those things, and I think the girls wanted to have that experience themselves, whether it be at St. Joe’s or somewhere else,” Cindy Griffin said. “I think that’s kind of what fueled their interest in playing basketball at the next level.”

Kaylie Griffin emphasized her mother’s point about the players she grew up around. After all, not all 10-year-olds grow up watching future WNBA guards practice.

“I had a lot of role models growing up and throughout the years … people like Erin Shields and Natasha Cloud, and [having] those people to look up to is really special,” Kaylie Griffin said. “And growing up, obviously with my mom, and having her just be a role model for me, and for even all my friends, it’s just really great, and it really made me who I am today.”

Branching out

Kaylie Griffin and Hannah Griffin stood out in soccer and basketball at Gwynedd Mercy Academy but chose to pursue the latter, a decision Hannah Griffin said her upbringing and passion for the game played a role in.

“Being able to see what my next steps would be like if I played in college, and now that I am playing in college, that’s something that I always looked up to and always really wanted,” Hannah Griffin said. “Being able to actually do that is something really special.”

There also was another layer to Hannah Griffin’s college choices, between staying with what was familiar or branching out. Ultimately, Hannah Griffin said she wanted to push herself out of her comfort zone and chose Holy Cross.

“When I came here on my visits, it just felt really like a family community, and it was something I really wanted to be a part of,” Hannah Griffin said. “I know at St. Joe’s I would also have that family community, but I just wanted to branch out.”

Hannah Griffin found herself experiencing a historic season with the Crusaders (21-13), one that included a Patriot League championship and NCAA Tournament berth, where they lost to Iowa in the round of 64. It’s something her mother said they are “so proud” of her for.

“I think going up there being so far from home, and knowing some people, not knowing everybody, but just being very open-minded and being very selfless as far as, ‘How can I help this team?’ She has the right mentality of her role and what they need from her,” Cindy Griffin said.

‘The same love for the game’

Meanwhile, Kaylie Griffin is following in her mother’s footsteps while experiencing a historic season of her own. The Hawks went 28-6 this season, the most wins in program history, while Cindy Griffin became the third coach in conference history to earn 200 conference wins in the A-10.

“[Kaylie] wants to win a championship, and that’s why she came to St. Joe’s,” Cindy Griffin said. “She wants to help us win a championship, and we did win the Big 5 championship, we won the Hawk Classic championship, [but] fell short of the A-10. She has another year to do that, and that’s really special.”

Despite not bringing home the A-10 title this year, sharing in this record run and her entire collegiate experience with her mother is something that can only be described as “special” to Kaylie Griffin.

“It’s so personal and so close to my heart, wanting and having the same love for the game and the same experiences,” Kaylie Griffin said. “Especially because my mom went here, she understands that process, too. She understands what it is like to be from St. Joe’s and to be a St. Joe’s women’s basketball player.”

Staying connected

With the three family members split across two schools, Hannah Griffin said their constant support for each other and their shared love of the game are just some of the things that keep them connected.

“I call my mom all the time,” Hannah Griffin said. “She’s always there for me, obviously, to give her basketball IQ perspective. But, as a mom, she’s just always there if I need anything, I just need to talk to her, and same with my sister. They’re always there for me whenever I don’t want to talk about basketball, or if I ever do.”

This line between family and coach is one Cindy Griffin said she’s had to learn how to toe the line, and Kaylie Griffin as well, but distinguishing between the roles has come with practice.

“I’m just like every other player, and when there’s a correction or something that needs to be talked about, you talk about it as ‘coach,’” Kaylie Griffin said. “But then when I’m up in her office and we’re talking about, ‘Oh are you going to come home for Sunday dinner?’ I know that that’s my mom and not my coach talking to me.”

And even during those Sunday dinners where Cindy Griffin finds herself playing the role of mom, basketball seems to find a way to creep into the conversation.

“We talk about basketball a lot, even though we try not to sometimes,” Cindy Griffin said. 

Ultimately, basketball remains part of the Griffin family DNA.

“You can love something yourself, but being able to share that love for something with the people that you love the most is really important,” Kaylie Griffin said.

Kaylie, Hannah and Cindy Griffin pose after the Holy Cross and Lafayette matchup, Jan. 17.

An earlier version of this article was first published by the Philadelphia Inquirer April 16 as part of the Inquirer’s college correspondent program. 

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Mia Messina
Mia Messina, Sports Editor
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