Penn State will open play Friday at noon in search of its first tourney title since 1996
Penn State earned its third straight Big Ten crown with a win over Michigan on Saturday, March 1
Three straight Big Ten titles for Lady Lion seniors
Lucas, Edwards, Taylor and East all take home all-conference accolades
Penn State ends 2013-14 with a 7-1 record in Big Ten road games
Penn State vs. Michigan (USATSI)
USATSI gallery, women's basketball
No. 12 Penn State vs. No. 24 Texas A&M - UTSI
Penn State vs. Georgetown (USATSI)
Penn State women's basketball
2012-13 Big Ten Coach of the Year
Coquese Washington was introduced as the fifth head coach of the Penn State women's basketball program on April 23, 2007. Washington is the first female African-American head coach in Penn State history.
The Lady Lions continued their return to the national spotlight in 2012-13 as they collected their second-straight Big Ten regular-season title and seventh overall with a 26-6 overall record and 14-2 mark in conference play. In each of Washington's first six years, Penn State has improved their Big Ten win total. The Lady Lions posted their third consecutive 25-win season, joining the 1993-94, 1994-95 and 1995-96 squads as the only teams in program history to accomplish the feat. Penn State also advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a win over Cal Poly. The Lady Lions were consistently ranked in the Top 10 for most of the season and finished eighth in the Associated Press Top 25 and 12th in the USA Today Sports Coaches' Poll.
With another stellar campaign, the accolades continued to roll in for the Lady Lions. Washington was selected as the Big Ten Coach of the Year by the media for the second-straight season and became just the fifth mentor in Big Ten history to win back-to-back Coach of the Year accolades. She was also the WBCA Region 6 Coach of the Year and a finalist for WBCA National Coach of the Year for the second-straight season. The awards also piled up for Penn State's dynamic backcourt of Maggie Lucas and Alex Bentley. Lucas was selected as the Big Ten Player of the Year, was a Wade Trophy Finalist and was an All-America choice by four outlets, including the WBCA (honorable mention), Associated Press (second team), USBWA (first team) and Full Court (second team). She is just the third Lady Lion in program history to win Big Ten Player of the Year honors, joining Helen Darling and Kelly Mazzante. Bentley earned her third-straight first team All-Big Ten award and honorable mention All-America bids from the WBCA and Associated Press. She was also selected as the 2013 recipient of the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, which is presented to the nation's outstanding female collegian 5-8 and under. Bentley is the third Lady Lion to win the honor, joining Darling and Suzie McConnell. Nikki Greene also capped a stellar career for the Lady Lions with third team All-Big Ten accolades. She also became the first player in school history to accumulate 1,000 points, 900 rebounds and 200 blocks.
Both Bentley and Greene heard their names called on WNBA Draft night. Bentley was selected with the 13th overall pick by the Atlanta Dream to become the highest draft pick for the Lady Lions since Tanisha Wright (12th) in 2005. Greene was the 26th overall selection by the Phoenix Mercury to give Penn State two draft picks for the first time since 2004 (Mazzante, Jess Brungo).
With five graduating seniors in 2012-13, Penn State was stout on the recruiting trail, bringing in a seven-member class that was ranked 14th by ESPN/HoopGurlz. The Lady Lions also added transfer Sierra Moore from Duke to complete the eight-player class. The addition of Moore gives the Lady Lions four McDonald's All-Americans on the roster heading into the 2013-14 campaign, joining Dara Taylor (2009), Lucas (2010) and Candice Agee (2012).
Washington returned the Lady Lions to Big Ten prominence in her fifth season as she guided Penn State to the Big Ten regular-season title with a 13-3 record in conference play. Additionally, the Lady Lions advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen with wins over UTEP and LSU en route to a 26-7 overall record. The Lady Lions posted back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 2002-03 and 2003-04. It was also the first Big Ten crown and Sweet Sixteen berth for the Lady Lions since 2003-04. The Lady Lions were ranked throughout the season and finished ninth in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll and 11th in the Associated Press Top 25.
For her efforts in rebuilding the Penn State program, Washington was honored as the Big Ten Coach of the Year and the WBCA Region 6 Coach of the Year, making her a finalist for WBCA National Coach of the Year. The accolades were not just limited to Washington; all five Lady Lion starters earned All-Big Ten recognition, including first team bids for Bentley and Lucas. Both Bentley and Lucas also garnered honorable mention All-America honors from the WBCA and Associated Press, respectively. Bentley became the 33rd player in school history to reach the 1,000-point plateau and just the 15th junior to reach the milestone. Lucas also joined the 1,000-point club in 2011-12, becoming just the third sophomore in program history to accomplish the feat.
On the recruiting trail, the Lady Lions' 2012 class earned a Top 20 class from Dan Olson's Collegiate Girls Basketball Report. The class included transfer Taylor, who sat out the 2011-12 season due to NCAA transfer rules, and McDonald's High School All-American Agee from California. Additionally, Agee earned a gold medal with the USA Basketball U18 National Team Trials at the 2012 FIBA Americas Championship in August.
The Lady Lions returned to the national stage in Washington's fourth year with a second-place finish in the Big Ten regular season standings, a runner-up finish in the Big Ten Tournament and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Penn State tallied its 23rd 20-win season with a 25-10 overall record and an 11-5 mark in conference play. The Lady Lions worked their way back to the "Big Dance" for the first time since 2004-05 and advanced to the second round for the first time in seven years with a win over Dayton in the first round in front of a raucous Bryce Jordan Center crowd.
Penn State was a dominating force from the perimeter as the Lady Lions tied the school record with 228 three-pointers and led NCAA Division I from deep with a .415 three-point field goal percentage. Pacing the Lady Lions from downtown was Lucas, who broke the Big Ten three-pointers record with 112 triples to go along with a .426 shooting percentage. For her efforts, Lucas was selected as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year while breaking the Penn State freshman season scoring record (552 pts.). Additionally with Washington's guidance, Bentley became the 11th different player in school history to take home first team All-Big Ten accolades after finishing second in the conference in assists. After outstanding seasons, both Lucas and Bentley were invited to the USA Basketball World University Games Trials. Washington was also instrumental in the development of Greene, who earned a spot on the Big Ten All-Defensive team and All-Big Ten honorable mention accolades after recording 75 blocks on the year. Julia Trogele also claimed All-Big Ten honorable mention honors to close out her career.
Washington's third season saw the Lady Lions return to the postseason for the first time since 2004-05 with a WNIT berth. The Lions earned their most overall wins (17) and conference wins (8) since the 2004-05 campaign en route to a sixth-place finish in the Big Ten. Penn State picked up a pair of wins over ranked opponents in #15/15 Pittsburgh and #20/23 Michigan State.
Washington led Tyra Grant to back-to-back first team All-Big Ten honors and Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America accolades in her senior season. Grant capped off her career by being selected by the Phoenix Mercury in the second round of the WNBA Draft. The four-time all-conference pick left Penn State third in school history in scoring with 2,044 points. Washington also guided Bentley to third team All-Big Ten honors, as well as a unanimous selection to the Big Ten All-Freshman team.
That year, Washington and the Lady Lions garnered one of the top recruiting classes in the country, finishing 22nd on the ESPN/HoopGurlz recruiting chart. The class included just the second McDonald's High School All-American in Penn State history in Lucas, WBCA High School All-American Ariel Edwards and All-State selection Talia East.
In Washington's second season, the Lady Lions moved up three positions in the Big Ten standings, finishing in a tie for seventh place. Under Washington's guidance in 2008-09, Grant became the 10th different player in school history to earn first team All-Big Ten honors. Grant was also a semifinalist for the Naismith Player of the Year award. Additionally, Brianne O'Rourke closed out her career with All-Big Ten honorable mention accolades and left Penn State as one of just six players in school history with 1,000 points and 500 assists.
Washington's second recruiting class was rated in the Top 20 by many publications, peaking at No. 10 by "Blue Star Basketball." The four-player class featured a pair of All-Americans in Greene and Bentley, as well as All-State performers Gizelle Studevent and Marisa Wolfe.
In May 2009, Washington's protégés Grant and Greene were invited to the USA Basketball Trials for the World University Games and U19 World Championships, respectively.
The Coquese Washington era started in style as the Lady Lions won their first three games of the season, including a win over #20/21 Pittsburgh, to claim the WBCA Classic title. Just three weeks later, Washington guided the Lady Lions to their first ever win over perennial contender and 10th-ranked Duke in the inaugural Big Ten/ACC Challenge, a game that was televised on ESPN2. The Lady Lions also appeared on CBS, earning a road win over Michigan State to kickoff the New Year. Washington was also instrumental in helping Kam Gissendanner sign a free agent contract with the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.
Washington came to Happy Valley after eight seasons as an associate head coach and assistant coach under Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame, her alma mater. During Washington's eight years on the bench, Notre Dame amassed a 188-69 record with eight NCAA Tournament appearances, including four Sweet Sixteen runs and a National Championship in 2001.
One of the top recruiters in the country, Washington was instrumental in helping the Irish to secure eight consecutive Top 25 recruiting classes, according to "Blue Star Index," a feat only accomplished by two other programs in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee).
During her tenure at Notre Dame, Washington coached five All-Americans and had seven players that were drafted into the WNBA. Washington, in her role as the guards coach, was directly responsible for developing three All-Americans and two Frances Naismith Pomeroy Award winners for the nation's top player 5-8 or under, including Niele Ivey and Megan Duffy. Washington also directed Alicia Ratay, who is the NCAA's career three-point field goal percentage leader.
Washington was a four-year starting point guard for Notre Dame under McGraw and was the team captain on Notre Dame's first-ever NCAA Tournament team. She was a two-time All-Midwestern Collegiate Conference (MCC) selection and led Notre Dame to three MCC Tournament titles. Washington led the team in steals in each of her four seasons and was tops on the squad in assists three times. Washington is first on UND's all-time steals per game list (2.7), third in career steals (307), sixth in assists (554).
The epitome of a student-athlete, Washington graduated from Notre Dame 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 after earning her Juris Doctorate from the Notre Dame Law School.
Washington juggled finishing her law degree with the start of her professional basketball career. She returned to the hardwood as a professional in 1997-98, playing for the ABL's Portland Power before spending a two-year stint with the WNBA's New York Liberty (1998-99). Washington moved to Houston for the 2000 season, where she played an instrumental role in leading the Comets to the WNBA title. She had a solid season in 2001 with the Comets and Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor, finishing ninth in the WNBA in assists and fourth in steals as Houston earned its fifth consecutive playoff berth. Washington started the 2002 campaign with Houston before being traded to the Indiana Fever at the midway point of the season. Washington guided the Fever to their first-ever playoff berth and became the first player in WNBA history to lead three different teams to the postseason. She finished her professional career in 2003 as a member of the Fever.
Utilizing her law degree, Washington was a central figure in helping create the WNBA Players Association (WNBPA), serving as the founding president of the WNBPA from 1999 until 2001. She also served as the Executive Vice President of the WNBPA from 2001 until her retirement in 2003. Washington led negotiations for the association's first collective bargaining agreement as the association's president, and as the executive vice president was a mainstay in the negotiations for the league's second collective bargaining agreement, which brought about the first free agency system in women's professional sports.
In addition to assisting with the efforts of the Pink Zone at Penn State to raise money and awareness for breast cancer, Washington created Coquese's Drive for the Women's Resource Center. The first four Coquese's Drive for the Women's Resource Center raised more than $98,000 for the Centre County Women's Resource Center to aid in the fight against domestic violence.
Washington is currently serving on the 29-member WBCA Board of Directors, where she is the Vice President/President-Elect of the Executive Committee after a three-year stint as Treasurer. Washington is also a member of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund Board of Directors and the NCAA Women's Basketball Issues Committee.
A standout at Central High School in Flint, Mich., Washington was inducted into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame in December 2009.
A native of Flint, Mich., Washington and her husband, Raynell Brown, have a son, Quenton (8), and a daughter, Rhaiyna (4). They reside in Port Matilda, Pa.
Coquese Washington's Year-by-Year Record