Courtesy of RITAthletics.com
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Rochester Institute of Technology Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Lou Spiotti, Jr. announced former Tiger standout Celeste Brown ’15 has been named the Bruce B. Bates Women’s Hockey Coach at her alma mater.
Brown was a member of RIT’s 2012 NCAA Division III National Championship team before starring the next three seasons during the Tigers’ move to Division I. She went on to become the first player in program history to sign a professional contract before kicking off a coaching career, which included the last three years as an assistant coach at Penn State University.
“I am truly proud to make this announcement to the RIT community,” said Spiotti. “To bring one of our own alumna back to take over our proud women’s hockey program is indeed an exciting day. Celeste was one of the fiercest competitors our athletics program has ever known and has since become a stellar coach.”
Brown said, “I would first like to thank Lou Spiotti, (Senior VP for Student Affairs) Sandy Johnson, (Associate Director of Intercollegiate Athletics) Bethany Marren and the entire search committee on their diligent efforts throughout this process and the opportunity to return to RIT. I would also like to thank my family and the unbelievable mentors I have had to help me get to this point.
“I am truly humbled and ecstatic to lead the next era of RIT women’s hockey. RIT is an unbelievable institution that offers elite opportunities in both academics and athletics. I look forward to joining an athletic department full of successful teams, coaches and student-athletes.”
Brown joined Penn State Head Coach Jeff Kampersal’s staff prior to the 2018 campaign, working primarily with the Nittany Lions’ forwards and power play unit. Under Brown’s tutelage, Penn State advanced to three-consecutive College Hockey America Tournament semifinals, while the 2018-19 squad totaled 73 goals — one short of the program’s all-time record -– along with second-most points (180), power play goals (23) and assists (107) in the PSU record book.
“Celeste is a fabulous coach — she’s smart, loyal, motivated, and genuine,” said Kampersal. “Every day, she pushed me and our players to be better. As a player, she was a champion at RIT because of her grit. As a coach, I expect her teams to be equally gritty and hard to play against. Her players will love playing for her.”
During her time in State College, Pa., Brown mentored rising senior forward Natalie Heising, who has established herself as one of College Hockey America’s (CHA) top scorers. Heising was tabbed 2018 CHA Rookie of the Year after finishing second in the league with 19 goals and leading the way with 10 power play goals and 15 power play points. The two-time CHA All-Star is already the program’s all-time leader with 18 power play tallies and ranks second and third, respectively, with 47 goals and 77 points entering her final season. Heising also scored three goals in Penn State’s 4-1 victory over RIT in the 2020 CHA Tournament Quarterfinals earlier this year.
“These outstanding women at RIT are my number one priority,” continued Brown. “I am excited to learn about each player’s individual experiences and outlooks. Those virtues will enhance our team identity.”
Brown played for the New York Riveters during the inaugural season of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) in 2015-16 while also kicking off her coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Division III Manhattanville. She played the following season with the NWHL’s Connecticut Whale while also serving as an assistant coach at Division III Connecticut College.
Brown’s prolific career in a Tiger uniform started with 21 points on 12 goals and nine assists during her freshman campaign, culminating with the go-ahead goal and two assists in the third period of RIT’s 4-1 victory over Norwich (Vt.) to clinch the national title. She was also on the ice when the Tigers scored the overtime game-winner to defeat Plattsburgh, 2-1, in the national semifinals.
Brown continued her high-level play following the program’s move to Division I prior to the 2012-13 campaign. She scored a team-high 30 goals over the next three seasons while serving as team captain for both of the team’s CHA Championship runs in 2014 and 2015, finishing with 70 points on 42 goals and 28 assists. In the classroom, Brown posted a 3.73 grade point average while garnering CHA All-Academic Team honors on three occasions. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology while also tacking on a minor in women and gender studies.
Continued Spiotti, “This appointment marks the conclusion of a thorough and highly effective process that resulted in an appointment that we feel incredibly confident about. “Celeste brings our program the experiences, passion and level of commitment which our student-athletes deserve.”
The Great Falls, Montana native served as a skills coach last summer at the USA Hockey National Camp and has been part of the USA Hockey Western Multi-District Girls Player Development Camp for the last four years, currently serving as a head coach. Brown has also worked as a head coach at the Summer Hockey School in Skedsmo, Norway since 2015.
“I am counting down the days until the team returns to campus and the fun can begin,” Brown said. “We are going to approach each day with open minds, excitement and full effort. It feels fantastic to be back in the Tiger country!”