LOS ANGELES — Anahit Aladzhanyan, who was a part of four SCIAC championships as an assistant coach on the Occidental College women's basketball team, has been named the squad's interim head coach following Heidi VanDerveer's departure for UC San Diego.
"Heat," as she's known around campus, was on the bench for both of Oxy's NCAA Division III playoff appearances in 2009 and 2011, and she has helped recruit some of Oxy's current women's basketball stars, including 2011-12 SCIAC Player of the Year Makenzie Brandon (Seattle).
She spent last season as the first assistant with the Oxy men's basketball team, making her one of a only a handful of women in the nation coaching men's collegiate basketball.
When VanDerveer decided to pursue the NCAA Division II coaching opportunity with the Tritons in May, the door opened for Heat to fulfill her lifelong dream of being a collegiate head coach.
"Getting the opportunity to be a head coach has always been a goal of mine," Aladzhanyan said. "I'm so thankful for the opportunity and I'm honored to take over a program that has developed a tradition of excellence over the last 5-10 years."
And as a product of the program herself, it's one she knows well.
Aladzhanyan played three seasons at Oxy when athletic director Jaime Hoffman was the coach from 2005-07. By her senior season, she was the team captain and a player-coach as an extension of Hoffman on the floor.
"It makes it even sweeter that my dream has been fulfilled at a place that I'm so emotionally attached to," Aladzhanyan said. "I've played here, I've coached here and I couldn't imagine a better opportunity."
Heat stayed on as Hoffman's assistant coach in 2007 and quickly snatched up several other roles in the Oxy athletic department as Hoffman noticed her value. She has recruited for various sports during coaching changes, serves on the Alcohol and Other Drugs and the Title IX Enforcement committees, and is the department's senior woman administrator.
"I've been high on Heat's basketball IQ ever since I met her. She's one of the smartest players I've ever coached and she'll do a great job as the new leader of the Tigers," Hoffman said. "We didn't want to miss a beat in recruiting and she is more than proven in that capacity of the job. This is the perfect opening for her… She's ready."
Heat graduated from Occidental with a degree in psychology in 2007 and later earned her masters from Pepperdine in 2010.
Prior to Oxy, Heat was a two-year captain at Marshall High School in her native Los Angeles.
Oxy men's coach Brian Newhall was the latest to work with Heat and after spending a year with her as his top assistant, the 24-year veteran thinks it's a great fit.
"Heat is like 100s of qualified assistant coaches who are just waiting for an opportunity. She's more than ready to take over her own program," Newhall said. "I think her combination of basketball knowledge, her recruiting work ethic and her feel for the institution are going to make her an outstanding head basketball coach at Occidental."