By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As Penn State Lady Lion basketball has returned to national recognition, a lot of focus has been on the job Coquese Washington has done during her seven-year tenure.
Washington's name has vaulted into the group of up-and-coming college head coaches over the past two season and some current elite women's basketball coaches shared that sentiment earlier this year.
The Notre Dame graduate began her collegiate head coaching career at Penn State in 2007 and has made three NCAA tournament appearances and won two regular season Big Ten Conference championships in the past three years.
"She's right on top of [her game]...she's the best young coach in the country," said Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw. "When a couple coaches retire, I think she's going to be the one [coach] that everyone looks to."
It all starts with recruiting for Washington, who has had three top-20 recruiting classes since 2008, including a top-10 ranked 2013 class. Washington has recruited players specific to the program's need and has developed a diverse group of stars during her time as head coach for the Blue and White.
Recruiting is where it all starts for elite programs according to legendary Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma, who said Washington has done a tremendous job in getting the right players to Penn State.
"I think Coquese has done a great job of recruiting to her style of play," he said. "That's probably one of the reasons why fans love coming to their [Penn State's] games. This is one of those places where you can be really successful and create a lot of excitement and get a lot of people from the community involved."
Washington has done just that especially during the past three seasons that have ended in NCAA tournament appearances. The annual "Pink Zone" game has attracted over 11,000 fans since 2011, including 14,173 in 2013.
She has also become active in the community with "Coquese's Drive" which raised over 18-thousand dollars for the Women's Resource Center in the sixth annual golf tournament.
Combine those efforts with her leadership, development of players and results on the court; it has been hard not to notice what the Penn State Lady Lion program has become over the recent years.
"There are probably twenty schools in the country that people think are really, really good and they're one of them," Auriemma said of Penn State.
Additionally, besides building one of the top programs in America, Washington has been very active in the women's basketball world as well. She currently resides as the Vice President/President-Elect for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and is on the board of directors of the NCAA Women's Basketball Issues Committee.
Her work at Penn State and in the realm of women's basketball has led many current coaches to believe Washington is the future of coaching in the sport.
"[Coquese] knows what's good for the game of women's basketball," said McGraw. "She can take her institutional hat off, which a lot of people can't do, and really think about of what's good for women's basketball and what we need for growth in the game.
"She's is going to be the best coaches in the country... she's the best young coach in the country right now. When a couple coaches retire, I think she's going to be the one that everyone looks at to lead the game."
Washington will enter her seventh Big Ten season on Jan. 5 at Iowa after the final non-conference games of the season with Alcorn State Sunday, Dec. 22 and Hartford on Sunday, Dec. 29.