A look at the iconic friendship between head coach Cara Consuegra and assistant coach Randi Henderson
Move-in day, Fall of 1997.
That’s when Cara Consuegra and Randi Henderson first met as the two were enrolled to play basketball at Iowa and were paired as roommates randomly. Consuegra and Henderson are still friends 20 years later, and now work alongside each other as coaches for the women’s basketball team.
Though the two talked to each other prior to move-in day, nothing compared to having to share a small room equipped with a bunk bed and sink with a complete stranger. It was especially challenging for Consuegra, who came from a family with just one brother. Henderson, on the other hand, comes from a big family with six total siblings.
“For her, living in a small space with someone, I don’t think, was quite as difficult as it was for me to share a small place with someone. I know for me personally I had to make a lot of adjustments in terms of living with that. It certainly helped me grow as a person, and she was a great person to grow that way with,” Consuegra said.
In addition to being from a small family, Consuegra also was far from home. Henderson was from close by Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Maryland native was quickly taken in by Henderson’s family.
“She got a lot of Peterson family love and exposure. I think just being exposed to such a big family and getting that type of support was good. It was fun for me to watch her getting exposed to a lot of things,” Henderson said.
Henderson and her family also helped attempt to teach Consuegra how to ride a bike. Though she had excellent teachers, bike riding wasn’t Consuegra’s cup of tea.
“She totally wiped out,” Henderson said.
The duo not only shared close spaces, but close bonds as well.
“Cara is the first person that I have gone through a lot of different emotions with: good times in season, bad times in season, good things going on for me personally, bad things going on for me personally,” Henderson said. “We were in this small space so there was really no one else to share those good times and bad times with. Our friendship grew strength was in both of us learning what a real friend was.”
Their relationship only continued to blossom after their first year at Iowa. Both became team captains during their sophomore seasons. The two had a hot and cold style approach.
“I’m always really thankful for Randi because we balance each other out really well,” Consuegra said. “She helped me grow as a leader. I was really competitive and very much a hot head when I was younger. Randi was very different in that she was very tolerant, calm and loving. That helped me step towards her a little bit. That balance really helped me grow in the way that I treated people, cared about people and loved people and to do it in a more loving way rather than harshly.”
Graduation was tough for the two as they each went their separate ways. Consuegra went on to play in the WNBA post-grad before beginning her coaching career at Penn State. Henderson took a different route, leading groups with disabilities on different treks including white water rafting and hiking. For her, basketball was the last thing on her mind.
“For me I was so excited when basketball was over so I could go out and see the world,” Henderson said. “I was so excited about closing that chapter, closing basketball. I think what is so cool about our friendship is that even though we went on completely different paths, we managed to stay in touch and still mattered to each other the whole time.”
After she received her master’s degree in recreation and sports sciences from Ohio, Henderson applied for 60 to 70 jobs in her field and only one job for coaching. She only heard back from one job.
“The coaching job was the only job I got offered. I took it. I’m qualified to do a lot of other things, coaching is not what I thought I was qualified to do,” Henderson said.
Consuegra saw it as a sign.
“She was meant to be a coach,” Consuegra said.
While they were both in different parts of the coaching world, the two kept constant communication. When the two swapped notes about basketball, Consuegra recognized the talent within Henderson.
“Over the last two years before she came on staff, I started to talk to her more about basketball,” Consuegra said. “The more I talked to her about it, I realized that she really was an excellent coach.”
A coaching position became open on the Charlotte staff, and Consuegra began her campaign to recruit Henderson to move to the Queen City. Being recently married, it created the perfect storm for Henderson to leave Iowa for North Carolina.
“It was hard because all of my family was in Iowa and I had built a program with players. I had to make a decision as to whether I would leave all of that for this. Cara was a big part in my decision, knowing I was going to be given the opportunity to do things I usually wouldn’t as a coach,” Henderson said.
Being friends for as long as the two have been, Consuegra and Henderson have seen each other go through many stages of life.
“To see who that person was when we first met each other in that dorm room to the person she is now, for Randi I am just incredibly proud of her and incredibly honored to be in her life,” Consuegra said. “From the young lady that never thought she would be involved with basketball again to now she is one of the best coaches I have ever been around and made this program better than I ever thought possible. I’m just proud of her as a friend, as a sister. It’s been neat to see her become the woman she is because she impacts people’s lives at a very very high level.”
Seeing each other as freshmen in college to now mothers, wives and coaches, the two have seen each other grow.
“When I came here, to see her interacting with her players and family, being a mom, a wife, it’s been really cool to me. I knew she would be a coach, but I didn’t know that she would become such a caring mom, wife, whole everything,” Henderson said. “She was always so driven. To see her balance all of those things as a whole to me has been so rewarding. That’s been one of the coolest things to me is seeing her own that part of her life.”