April 23, 2007
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Coquese Washington (first name pronounced ko-KWEES), an assistant and associate head coach for the women’s basketball program at the University of Notre Dame for the past eight seasons and a “double Domer” graduate of the University, has been named the new head coach at Penn State University. Washington was officially introduced at a press conference Monday afternoon on the Penn State campus in University Park, Pa. Washington replaces Rene Portland (first name pronounced REE-knee), who stepped down as the Lady Lion head coach last month.
Washington, 36, was an integral contributor to the Notre Dame program for more than a decade, spending a combined total of 12 seasons with the Irish as either a player (1989-93) or assistant coach (1999-2007) under veteran head coach Muffet McGraw. During her eight-year coaching tenure at Notre Dame, the Irish posted a sharp 188-69 (.732) record, including eight NCAA Tournament berths, four NCAA Sweet 16 appearances (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004), and the 2001 NCAA national championship.
Promoted to associate head coach in August 2005, Washington was responsible for coordinating Notre Dame’s nationally-ranked recruiting efforts, including eight consecutive Top 25 classes during her stay under the Golden Dome (a streak only Connecticut and Tennessee can match). She also worked closely with Notre Dame’s guards, helping develop three All-Americans including Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award winners Niele Ivey (2001) and Megan Duffy (2005). What’s more, she oversaw the development of the Irish game schedule, and assisted with practice planning and game scouting — in the latter role, she scouted wins over 11 ranked opponents in the past three seasons (victories over Purdue and Louisville in 2006-07), as well as the 2001 NCAA title game win over Purdue.
Washington is the sixth former McGraw assistant and/or former player to become a head coach at the NCAA Division I level. Others in that group include: Sandy Botham (Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Beth (Morgan) Cunningham (Virginia Commonwealth), Bill Fennelly (Iowa State), Kevin McGuff (Xavier) and Carol Owens (Northern Illinois). McGuff, Owens and Washington comprised the Irish staff when Notre Dame won the 2001 national championship. Another nine McGraw assistants and/or players currently are serving as assistant coaches at either the college or high school level.
“Coquese has been a big part of our tradition of success here at Notre Dame,” McGraw said. “Having played for us, she knew our system and what we were trying to accomplish. The success she had in developing our guards is well-known, including numerous All-Americans, all-BIG EAST selections and two Frances Pomeroy Naismith winners. As we have come to realize, especially in the past couple of years with the advancement of Kevin McGuff and Carol Owens, it is hard to keep such talented assistants from moving into head coaching positions and we’re grateful we had the chance to enjoy Coquese’s abilities for as long as we did.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for Coquese, and all of us — players, coaches and staff — are very excited for her,” McGraw added. “She will be extremely successful in State College, and I’m confident the Lion players and fans are going to love to have her leading their program. Penn State has a bright future with Coquese as its head coach and we all look forward to following their progress in the coming years.”
Washington was a four-year monogram winner at Notre Dame from 1989-92, leading the team in steals each of her four seasons and setting the pace in assists three times. She was a two-time all-Midwestern Collegiate Conference selection and helped the Irish win three MCC Tournament titles and earn the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth in 1992. She ranks among the top 10 in school history for steals (second – 307), steals per game (first – 2.7 spg.), assists (fifth – 554) and assists per game (fourth – 4.9 apg.).
Washington also was a standout in the classroom, graduating from Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters in 1992 (a full year ahead of schedule) with a bachelor’s degree in history. She went on to attain “double Domer” status in 1997, earning her Juris Doctorate from the Notre Dame Law School. That law background proved useful when Washington was tapped as the founding president of the Women’s National Basketball Association Players Association (WNBAPA) in 1999 and steering the negotiations for the group’s first collective bargaining agreement, as well as its current plan.
A seven-year pro basketball veteran, Washington reached the WNBA Finals twice with the New York Liberty (1999) and Houston Comets (2000), winning the WNBA title the second time around. When coupled with Notre Dame’s NCAA championship eight months later, Washington became the first person ever to be a member of both championship teams simultaneously. She closed out her playing career in 2002 as a member of the Indiana Fever, helping that franchise reach the WNBA playoffs for the first time.
It also was announced Monday that Notre Dame assistant coach (and former Penn State All-America forward) Angie Potthoff will not be joining Washington’s staff and will continue in her current role with the Irish. Potthoff recently completed her second season at Notre Dame, working primarily with the Irish posts and playing a major role in the growth of junior center Melissa D’Amico and freshman center Erica Williamson (the latter was a 2007 BIG EAST Conference All-Freshman Team selection). She also has aided in Notre Dame’s recruiting and scouting efforts.
Meanwhile, a nationwide search will begin immediately to identify Washington’s replacement.
— ND —